Cape Town – The highlight of my year so far has undoubtedly been my interview with Foppe de Haan this week over a cup of coffee.
De Haan is loved by many people because of his humility and love for the game of football. His quirky sense of humour and his ability to brighten up a room when he walks in also makes him a top man.
He is charming also. “Hey mister John, you have lost some weight?” he asked me upon arriving at the coffee shop. That compliment made my year, and nobody is going to take that away from me ...
I usually don’t take selfies with celebrities because I think it’s not really ethical for a journalist to take pictures with people they write about. But I just had to take out my phone and ask for a picture, to which he obliged and even managed a smile.
The best part about Foppe, though, is his vast knowledge of football and his experience. Stories about how he turned Ruud van Nistelrooy into one of Europe’s deadliest strikers, how he made Thulani Serero realise that he is good enough to go toe-to-toe with Barcelona and how he managed to turn a bunch of Ajax kids into a title-chasing unit are legendary.
His enthusiasm for the game is also still there, even though he celebrated his 70th birthday last year. When he left Ajax in 2011 he was supposed to retire from the game, and his wife was looking forward to finally spending some time with him.
However, she has made peace with the fact that football will always be his “mistress”.
“My wife told me football will never leave me and I will never leave football,” he joked while sipping on a cappuccino. “I’m not the type of person who is suddenly going to sit in the garden. Football is in my blood.”
Football is in his blood, and especially South African football. But he doesn’t like what he is seeing at the moment. According to him South African football has gone backwards, because Bafana Bafana don’t have an identity. There seems to be confusion about the way they want to play.
Rugby was one thing Foppe learned about when he was in South Africa, and he explained Bafana’s problem in rugby terminology.
“If you look at the Springboks and New Zealand, they are one of the best rugby teams in the world. Both do the basics of the game well, but both have different styles,” he said.
“The Springboks are powerful, and they use their power in matches. That is their strength and they play to their strength. Bafana must identify the strength of the South African player and then help develop that from a young age.”
That makes a lot of sense, and if Danny Jordaan and the South African Football Association are serious about getting our football out of the toilet, they should listen to Foppe.
I asked Foppe if he would be interested to help Safa put plans in place to try to get proper development structures and he said yes, although he stressed that he doesn’t want a fulltime job anymore.
That “yes” is good enough for me. So maybe Danny should also have a coffee with Foppe. And who knows, he might even get to take a selfie with the great man as well.
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
@GaryLineker: Who could possibly have thought that a couple of months ago that Palace and Sunderland would both be out of the bottom 3? Remarkable turnarounds.
WHO TO FOLLOW
@FinallyMario: The real Mario Balotelli is, well, finally on Twitter.