In the season 2014/2015, the PSV women’s team was suffering from a whole wave of injuries. At a certain point in time, only 10 of their 19 players were healthy enough to play. This forced trainer Nebosja Vuckovic to add players from FC Eindhoven AV, the club that PSV was working together with, to his match squads. And when the PSV women faced RSC Anderlecht on the 27th of February 2015, I was one of those players.
A wonderful present
First, some background story to this remarkable event. In February of last year, I had only left my old team RKVV Nederwetten a little over a year ago, and played the majority of my minutes in FC Eindhoven’s second team in the third division (the 6th tier in the Dutch soccer pyramid), only two levels higher than where I came from. But I was training a lot, made many lonely extra hours on the pitch and was always there. That I got to sit on the bench at PSV that day had nothing to do with my soccer skills. It was a present, a reward for my hard work. It didn’t make the experience less amazing by even a second.
That evening, I got changed in the dressing rooms of de Herdgang, PSV’s training complex, sat in between players of the Dutch national team and was a professional socccer player for a night. The four girls that joined the team from FC Eindhoven, including me, received the shirts that had not been printed with last names yet, the shirts that normally weren’t even used. When I got my lucky number 24 by pure coïncidence, I knew that this night was pretty much gonna be as perfect as they come.
Rather with 10 than with me
The temperature that day was not far above the freezing point, and from beneath my fleece blanket on the bench, I saw my parents and my best friend in the stands on the other side of the pitch. For me. Let’s be very honest, the only way I would’ve played that night was if so many PSV players had been injured that putting me in was the only way the game would’ve been allowed to continue. In every other case, playing with 10 would have probably been a better idea than playing with me on the team. For someone who left the fifth division just over a year ago, the level in the Eredivisie is not only extremely intimidating, but also plain unreachable. If I had been subbed on, the Anderlecht players would have ruthlessly pounded on me.
But looking back at that day it’s still one of the best of my life. For the first time, I got a taste of what being a professional soccer player is like, something I’m still working for to this day, one and a half years later. That night, I was a PSV player, and my only job was to hide that I felt like a 12 year-old girl that was going to high school for the first time (you can imagine the overwhelming embarrassment when I had to ask one of the national team players I mentioned earlier if she had brought an extra pair of shinguards because I had forgotten my own because of all the stress…).
Lucky ugly font
The next day, I drove to Dragon Tattoo in Eindhoven without hesitation and got my lucky jersey number 24 tattooed on my ankle. I often get asked about it, that tattoo of a number in a ridiculously ugly font. My explanation is always the same (but you may have received the short version). That tattoo does not just represent my evening of sitting on the bench and the fact that I had my lucky number on my jersey. It represents the feeling I had being there, and when I saw that the most important people in my life were there to experience it with me.
Just a year after I had decided to leave the very lowest level in amateur soccer I was sitting on the bench for a professional team. And the reason behind that doesn’t even matter all that much. That I didn’t play that day matters even less. When your hearts start beating quickly, you get goosebumps and you realise that your dreams are really within reach when you work hard enough. That is what I think about when I look at my ankle. And the dissapointed look on my mom’s face when she saw that I had gotten yet another impulsive tattoo… Well, I guess that’s just part of the deal.
Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂