‘OG3NE to Stockholm! Douze points to AFC Ajax! No, wait, hold on…’ Yeah. For everyone in the Netherlands that is both an avid Eurovision follower and Ajax supporter (I have a hunch I might be the only one), yesterday evening was tough. Because how on earth do you choose between the second semi final of the Song Contest, and the historical match in the Europa League? At home, I jokingly referred to it as Sophie’s Choice, until I realised that choosing between two TV shows might not be quite the same as deciding which of your kids to hand over to the nazis… But difficult it sure was!
I eventually chose Eurovision on a big screen, and Ajax on a small one. And my, oh my, what a night it became. Two times a place in the final. Okay, the fact that Ajax makes it to the Europa League final is an unprecendented sensation, that the Dutch sisters sang their way to Saturday’s Grand Final in perfect harmony pretty much was what everyone expected. The party in our house didn’t suffer from it.
When I made myself a cup of coffee on the morning after and happily thought back to the evening before, I was quickly brought back to reality. I grabbed a black fineliner from my pencilcase to go through my daily ritual – writing the amount of days left until the 2019 World Cup on my hand – and realised that there currently only are 750 days between me and the biggest tournament in the world. Sevenhundredfifty. If you take the Tyresö game of November 2013 as a starting point, that means I’m currently at around 63% of my journey. Holy shit. In a moment like that, it’s hard not to get struck by panic.
As I wrote before, the season has turned out better than I ever could’ve dared to dream. I got to play so many minutes, learn so many new things, and stayed largely injury-free. But 750 days… Blink once and it’s already time for the qualifiers.
‘Are you going to make it?’
People often ask me if they think I’m going to make it, that World Cup. Makes sense, if you have left no occasion unused to scream at the top of your lungs that you’ll ‘of course’ be at that tournament. But it’s not as easy as a ‘wir schaffen das’-mentality and hoping for the best. That’s why I try to approach it as follows. If something were to happen tomorrow that would prevent me from playing soccer ever again, everything would’ve been worth it. The experiences I have had, the lessons I’ve learned – both on the pitch and off – and the people I’ve met.
If I’m going to make the Dutch national team depends on about 200 factors, of which I have a direct influence on two of them: how much I’m willing to do for soccer, and how much I’m willing not to do for soccer. The other 198 are outside of my control, so I’m going to try not to worry about those too much. But this sport has made me happier than I’ve ever been, and I can honestly say that there’s no greater feeling than doing something nobody, including you, never thought you could do it. I would be a fool if I didn’t give it my all for the next 750 days, right?
As far as my age goes I’m inspired by the Italian Patrizia Panico, that quit soccer in 2015, after 204 international games, at age 40. I’ve got some time. After the World Cup there’s the Olympic Games of 2020, then the European Championship of 2021 and so on. If I stay fit and healthy I’ll play soccer until retirement. The Ultimate Goal remains the 2019 World Cup, that hasn’t changed. But if I don’t make it, because of one or more of the 198 external factors, there’s no man overboard. An evening of dramatic crying and the next morning it’s back to business. The next tournament is around the corner.
But no matter how much I love soccer, Eurovision will always be my one and only love. If I would be called for the national team in two years, you bet I will be ready for it. But if that game would be on the same night as Eurovision…
Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂