Over the years, a city one-quarter the size of Dublin has produced hundreds of soccer internationals for the Netherlands’ national teams.
Due to infrastructure installed by the Dutch mandarins of the game, players imported from Paramaribo, the capital city of the former Dutch colony of Suriname, have made for world-class personnel for the likes of Ajax in Amsterdam and Feyenoord of Rotterdam.
The Dutch development experience now has the potential to take shape in the Football Association of Ireland, with the further appointment of new high performance director Ruud Dokter, who will be with the FAI until 2020.
This period should be long enough to put in place a mechanism that will develop young boys and girls from the diverse ethnic backgrounds now resident in the Republic of Ireland.
To date, despite the fact that the FAI was funded by the Government to formulate an intercultural plan, there is very little evidence that the operational parts of the plan have been successful, with low representation of the target demographic at representative level, whether in the emerging talent process or in the women’s game.
The Dutch model, meanwhile, continues to produce talent from its international diaspora. These new players coming on stream follow in the footsteps of Dutch masters like Aron Mohamed Winter, Reginald Waldi Blinker, Edgar Davids and Clarence Seedorf.
His career starting at the tender age of seven, Clarence Seedorf grew up in a soccer-mad family in Suriname. After turning professional with Ajax in the Netherlands, he was snapped up by Sampdoria of Italy. He then signed for Real Madrid in 1996. Overal had a very successful career with a string of clubs including Inter Milan, AC Milan and Botafogo.
Retired since January 2014, Seedorf is now running a management company called On International and owns three Japanese restaurants in Italy. He is a board member of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, a founder of the educational foundation Champions for Children and a member of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Now and again he finds time to sit on TV panels as a pundit.
One of the best midfield player of the nineties, Edgar Davids was combative and energetic yet creative and skilful midfielder, nicknamed ‘The Pitbull’ by Louis van Gaal because of his marking ability, aggression and hard-tackling style of play.
In 2004, Davids was one of the players chosen by Pelé to feature in the FIFA 100, his list of the world’s greatest living soccer players. His career spanned Ajax, AC Milan, Juventus, Barcelona FC and Inter Milan, as well as earning 60 caps for the Netherlands.
Davids is now retired and only plays in non-league English teams, where he gets paid by the match. Recently he started a new fashion label called Monta Soccer, which sells urban style clothes around the world. Davids is a big promoter of ‘freestyle’ and street football, and has worked with former Sari freestyle champion Hoai-Nam Nguyen.
Reginald Waldi Blinker
Born in Paramaribo on 4 July 1969, Reginald Waldi Blinker made his debut in professional soccer in 1986 with Feyenoord, where he had 238 appearances and scored 45 goals. In 1996 he moved to Sheffield Wednesday, with whom he played 42 games.
Glasgow Celtic spotted his talent and transferred him to Scotland, where he got mixed reactions from fans. In 2001 he moved on to Sparta Rotterdam where he stayed until 2006. On retirement he established Life after Football, a journal and platform for retired players.
Aron Mohamed Winter
A retired footballer of Chinese and Surinamese heritage, Aron Mohamed Winter was born in 1967 in Paramaribo, where he started playing soccer at the relatively late stage of 19 years of age. He joined Ajax, where he made his debut in professional soccer in 1988. In 1992, he switched to Lazio where he played for four seasons before moving to Milan to play with Inter, and win a Uefa Cup.
In 1999 he was back in Ajax but in 2001 he was loaned to Sparta Rotterdam where, in 2003, he finished his career. Winter made 519 league appearances and scored 76 goals in his career. Currently, Winter is coach with the Dutch U19 team.
This is part two of a new series for Metro Éireann Sport presented by Sport Against Racism Ireland (Sari)