‘After a month and a half of hard work I’m almost fit again. I’m now training with John Metgod, always the final phase in a revalidation at Feyenoord. I have to keep at it for another week after which I will hopefully be able to join the group. It’s going better now, but it was very irritating up until last week. I kept on getting stitches. It’s a horrible injury. Overuse created a tear in a lumbar vertebra. But it’s not something that developed overnight.
I had problems with it as a first-year A. It feels like a painful line from my groin to the base of my buttock. It’s maybe not so surprising that I developed such an injury. Until recently, I played football almost 24 hours every day. First at Feyenoord and then at home on the square. That’s a serious amount of football on changing surfaces: grass, stone then artificial turf, etc. Add the fact that my left leg is almost 2 cm longer than my right, and you create a pressure that’s going to turn on you after a while. Treatment consisted of numerous exercises, treatment by the medical staff and a corset.
I’ve been walking around with the corset almost all summer, and I’ll be glad to get rid of it. It’s sort of a plastic construction that fits tightly around my waist. It made me hyperventilate at first, that’s how tight it is. It was driving me crazy, and it’s only because Sietje, my guide and best friend, kept on reminding me that I had to wear it that I got through it all. Even though you know what you’re doing it for, it was sometimes difficult to persevere.
I cut my holiday short mid-June to return to the Netherlands to have the thing fitted. At the time I was in Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco, with Sietje and Nourdin Boukhari. It’s where Sietje’s from. In the end I was only there for a week, but that was enough to make an unforgettable impression on me. I’ll explain why. We were sleeping at Sietje’s grandmother’s in a relatively small house that was also home to more of his family. So it was small and I was sleeping on a bench, but it was cosy and friendly. I really enjoyed it.
At a certain point we were going to go and stay at some luxury hotel, but after one night I wanted to return to the warmth of that family. The attitude of the people in Ceuta is completely different to that of the people here in the Netherlands. I was amazed how open, friendly, generous and hospitable people were. It was quite a revelation for me. People were always happy, and there were none of the so-called tough proud faces you see around here. I had set a spending budget for myself, but didn’t manage to actually spend very much of it. Everybody insisted on paying for us. It was never a case of me, me me… I was sorry to have to go back because I really enjoyed myself. But there will be plenty of opportunity to go back there.
At the moment I have to concentrate on getting fit again. I’ve got high hopes for the new season again. Of course a lot changed in my football career last year and that creates expectations. But I’m convinced I’ll secure myself a place in the first team again. I’ll have to prove myself though as there is a lot of competition, both for the left wing position and number 10. But age doesn’t count there as far as I’m concerned. I’m not too young and the others aren’t too old. The best player will play – leave that to the trainer.