September 9th, 2001


Hard Gras 21 - Snelheid bestaat niet (01-079)

Another one from the series, this time several authors write about one of the best players the Netherlands has ever produced: Wim van Hanegem. For footy fans it is known that the rivalry in the Netherlands is between Ajax and Feyenoord. Amsterdam against Rotterdam. Or Cruijff against Van Hanegem. Obviously Cruijff was the best player to ever grace the football stadiums, but Van Hanegem was as important for the Dutch team in the seventies as his more famous competitor. The title means 'speed doesn't exist' translated. This is because Van Hanegem seemed slow as a player. But somehow he didn't need speed to go past opponents, he didn't need to run all the time to excell, he was already there when the ball came his way. He had an instinct that was unrivalled.

The stories in Hard Gras are a nice background to the man and his career. My favorite is by Wilfried de Jong, a Dutch comedian, who also has produced the best sport programm on Dutch television over the last decade. He, born in Rotterdam, was always confronted with the same line when he was abroad and people found out where he was from. Amsterdam, Ajax, Cruijff. Finally in Cordoba, Spain, he meets a man who knows the difference between Amsterdam and Rotterdam. They can't talk to each other, as De Jong doesn't speak Spanish, nor does the old men speak anything else. But based on the new holy trilogy 'Rotterdam. Feyenoord. Banganegem.', they get drunk together.

One of the other stories refers to the time when he was coach of Feyenoord. For another television programm he has to coach a side of six years' old against Louis van Gaal, then at Ajax. Whereas Van Gaal tries to teach the youngsters some tactics, Van Hanegem really knows how to deal with kids at that age: "You shouldn't be standing, go and run and you won't get cold". I can remember watching the show and being impressed with the best player that played for the team I'm supposed to hate. His sense of humour, his simplicity and the way he can still kick a ball, it was enough to convince me to like him. This whole book dedicated to the man is not just good, he deserves it.
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