‘Dad, I wish you were here to see this… I have no words. It’s amazing.’ My toes were almost freezing off, as I waited in line for the bathroom at a small football stadium just outside of Stockholm. The temperature was getting dangerously close to -10°C (15°F), but I had stopped worrying about the cold quite some time ago.
It was half time at the Champions League quarter final between Tyresö FF and Fortuna Hjörring, a game that I had ended up watching by pure coincidence. I had travelled to the Swedish capital in November of 2013 all by myself, to get some hands-on experience with the language after a few months of studying it at home. A Spanish girl, that I had a lot of online contact with at that time, told me she was a big fan of the American attacker Christen Press, who was playing for Tyresö back then. A plan was born. Score Press’ autograph, send it to the girl in Spain, and receive her everlasting love as a reward. So far, so good.
The day before the match, I managed to get the autograph while visiting a training session. I even took some photos with the American superstars (even though at that time I really didn’t quite know who they were, but posing for a photo next to some attractive footballers is never a punishment…) and since I was there anyway, I decided to buy myself a ticket to the match. The next day, I tried to convey my enthusiasm over the 45 match minutes I had just seen through the telephone.
‘Dad, I’m serious, this is so incredible! A stadium, almost sold out! For women’s football!’ My father, who was sitting on the couch at home, 1500 kilometres to the south, listened to my story and mumbled a bit. ‘Hmm, yeah… Yes, that’s nice…’ His lack of response baffled me. Didn’t he realise that I just had a true epiphany? One where it appears as though the heavens open up before your eyes, and you suddenly realise what you want to do with the rest of your life? Nah, okay. That might be a bit dramatic, even by my standards. But the fact that my life would never be the same after that day, yeah, I had a feeling about that.
‘What have I been doing with my life all these years?’ That was the question that kept on running through my mind after that day. I had been playing football since I was eight, and of course little me had dreamt of making the national team, but by the time puberty hit, my priorities started to change drastically. Smoking, drinking, partying. I had always kept on playing football, but up until that moment, right after my 20th birthday, had never made it beyond the Dutch 8th and lowest amateur tier.
But on that day, November 14th, 2013, I saw some of the best footballers in the world at work. Ali Krieger, Christen Press, Verónica Boquete, Ashlyn Harris, Marta, Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg, Linda Sembrant, Caroline Seger, Kirsten van de Ven… I was so impressed by those amazing women, those incredible athletes, that I decided in that moment that my whole life needed to change. I was going to be a professional footballer. From the lowest to the highest level: that became my goal.
‘I did it.’
Last Friday, 4 years, 9 months and 25 days after that night in Stockholm, my dream became a reality, when I was subbed in at halftime during our first Super League game of the season with KSK Heist. It wasn’t an easy evening, a tough introduction to playing football at the highest level, but after my initial disappointment with the scoreline had settled, a surreal feeling came over me. ‘I did it.’ Of course, the road ahead is still so long, this was nothing but the next step along the way, but it feels incredible that I have been given the opportunity to do this.
Because in spite of what I’d been screaming from the rooftops on the internet for all these years, I never really was all that sure that I could do it, let alone witin 5 years. And the very best thing? This time, I didn’t have to share my enthusiasm with my dad over the phone. He was there, in the stands, watching me make my debut on the highest level.
Off to bed
When we arrived back home that evening, we had a few sips of champagne to celebrate, and then he quickly brought me back to planet earth. ‘Well. That was an amazing evening. But off to bed you go. The next important game is in a week.’
Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂