Since picking up his injury last March Smolarek has been working hard on his fitness at the National Sports Complex in Zeist, where he only recently started working with the ball. ‘That gives me a good feeling, although it’s not very spectacular. We are gradually adding more things. I’ve wanted to this for so long now, especially after my relapse a few months ago.’
‘In Zeist you can concentrate fully on yourself. And you are no longer in the range of the media’s viewfinder. You are not newsworthy and that’s good too. I really don’t need the attention.’ That said, Ebi did recently launch his own career, as co-presenter of the Feyenoord branded TV shows broadcast in South East Asia.
’I’m not worried that I’ve lost some ground on the other young players at the club during my twelve month forced sabbatical. I’ll never lose the qualities I have. I just have to build up some steam. I heard that some newspaper was wondering whether I’d go to Excelsior, but it’s far too early to think about that. I just want to get fully fit and play some reserve games. When I’m fit I’ll decide what I’m going to do for myself. At this moment there’s a lot of competition at Feyenoord, but it keeps you sharp. You know you cannot have too many bad games or you’ll lose your place.’
‘The assistant coach of Poland was in Rotterdam a little while back to check how I was doing. I had hoped to play in the upcoming qualifiers, but it’s going to be difficult. I told him at the time that it wasn’t realistic. They understand at the Polish football association and they are giving me time. It’s nice to know that they continue to watch me and that they stay in touch.’
Feyenoord recently launched a new service allowing fans to send text messages directly to their favourite players and Smolarek is clearly enjoying it. ‘I’m spending a lot of time with the fan text service. It is great fun. I’m really enthusiastic about it. It’s always great to have direct contact with your fans. I try to answer every message. You notice how happy people are to get a message back. I get around two hundred messages a day. That’s doable, but maybe it’ll be too much if it gets up to three or four hundred.’