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Van den Herik took the time during his New Year’s speech to express some thoughts on two of the club’s hottest young prospects. Despite criticism from some quarters – including some of the club’s fans – that Feyenoord such be focusing efforts on the Rotterdam Varkenoord youth development complex, the chairman feels with that every kick by two foreign imports in particular – Jonathon De Guzman and Salomon Kalou – justify the club’s foreign policy based on academies and partnerships.
Van den Herik began by reiterating the club’s stance vis-à-vis Salomon Kalou.
‘Feyenoord supports Salomon Kalou in the naturalisation procedure. And logically, because Feyenoord would rather have its players in the Holland side than far away on other continents. Even if it was just because UEFA and FIFA have still not managed to harmonise international calendars even vaguely.
‘Personally too, Salomon Kalou has had to give up a great deal to make his wish – playing for Holland – come true. He has declined all call-ups for the national team of the Ivory Coast. I can guarantee to you that in an unstable country you have to explain yourself for that. So it has not simply been his decision. It has been considered and discussed with his family.
‘We have always been happy that we have been able to fund part of Salomon’s development. The same goes for Jonathan De Guzman.
‘I am in North America from time to time and I can assure you that his success has not gone unnoticed in Canada. We not only have the academy at Varkenoord to thank for that incidentally, but also Jonathan’s parents. The negotiations about the extension to his contract were first and foremost about the sporting developments and about football.
‘Jonathan comes from a passionate sporting family. His father and mother have put a great deal of trust in us by allowing him to go to Holland at a young age and we are proud that we have not abused that trust.
‘I have often heard criticism of our foreign partnerships. I would be the last person to say that they have all been a success. Neither is that possible, because it would be a wonder of the world. But without foreign connections Jonathan De Guzman would not have ended up with us. And without Bonaventure Kalou his brother would not have played at Varkenoord either.’
Feyenoord have seen a number of key staff leave the club recently, but with such talented youngsters in the team the Feyenoord supremo does not feel the need to look back in anger. ‘It is a pity that a premature end came to the coaching reign of Ruud Gullit and Zelko Petrovic. It is a pity that we unexpectedly had to say farewell to Mark Wotte.’ But there are lots of positives at the club too.
‘We are happy with the arrival of Wim Jansen and the return of Chris Woerts. We are happy with Erwin Koeman, and the calm he radiates. No-nonsense. He knows what he has to do and he accepts it. No tensions and no phantoms that are not there.
‘And in addition we currently occupy an attractive position in the table. I sincerely hope that we will have a fine 2006 in that regard.’
Van den Herik also spoke of his personal and professional disappointment at the decision of the Public Prosecutor to continue its legal action against himself and the club in a tax case – the FIOD affair – that has been thrown out of court for lack of evidence twice already. ‘Is it not time for the Minister of Justice as the person with ultimate responsibility to call his people to order?
‘When I arrived fourteen years ago, some severe measures had to be taken. But necessity knows no law. And desperate diseases need desperate remedies.
‘In any event I’ve always steered a straight course. But you are not always thanked for the fact that you talk straight from the shoulder. I even find it difficult to shake off the idea that the FIOD affair is connected with this. Stronger still: I am convinced that that action was inspired by rancour. Don’t ask me whose. I can have my own ideas on that, but I can never prove them. But anyone who draws attention to themselves takes that risk.
‘But when you are 48 years old and you accept the chairmanship of the club you already loved as a child, you want just one thing – especially in times of need – and that is to put your house in order. And you certainly don’t consider the consequences… A seven-year debilitating legal action by the Public Prosecutor based on a wafer-thin suspicion. Those suspicions have now – happily – been unmasked. That does not change the fact that they were apparently presented to the Public Prosecutor proceeding from the idea that Feyenoord had to be damaged and the chairman had to hang. It cannot be otherwise.’