De Boer twins hope to lead the Netherlands to title
Posted: Saturday July 04, 1998 09:19 AM
Special from L'Equipe, the French sports daily
PARIS (L'Equipe) -- Hoorn is a small, clean and opulent-looking town along
the Markermeer River, protected by the sea's caprices by the interminable
sea wall between Enkhuizen and Lelystad, in the West Frise region. The
journey on the A7 and A8 highways to Amsterdam, 40 kilometers to the South,
sometimes takes up to an hour.
For years, Git de Boer made that journey several times a week to take her
twin sons to Ajax practices and matches. But today, the model mother
doesn't regret all the time she spent in her car. Her two sons are the
club's bosses, and two of the national team's pillars. "We owe everything
to her, she did everything for us," both of them claimed. "And to our
father, too, who encouraged us in this path."
Their dad, Kees de Boer, was a good player with AZ Alkmaar whose dream of a
pro career was shattered when he injured his leg. So it was only normal
that whenever his sons were idle, the former construction worker should
tell them to play soccer. He's been rewarded too.
Their lives have been tied together for such a long time. Louis van Gaal
scouted them when they were 12, then trained and shaped them for six years.
"He's probably the most important and the best coach I ever had," Frank
confessed. "I lived the best years of my career with him. We won everything
with him. And he's not just a soccer person. In human relations, in the
everyday life, he brings a lot to you. He has an excellent mentality, he's
honest and rightful. He doesn't forget your birthday, or your wife's, and
tells you why he doesn't play you," Ronald, the older -- by ten minutes --
and more articulate of the two twins added.
Van Gaal also got Ronald back from FC Twente, where Leo Beenhakker, who
then coached Ajax, had sent him because he didn't think he played well
enough. That was the first and only separation for the twins. "With
Beenhakker, one time I played, one time I didn't. I went to all the
practices but I couldn't show what I was worth because I didn't get enough
playing time. Maybe I wasn't good. Maybe the coach couldn't see I was good.
I was better off playing somewhere else for a while, discovering new
sensations. In any case, I had two good seasons in Enchede," Ronald
remembered. "It wasn't a difficult time for me," Frank commented. "Things
were going well for me with Ajax, we'd won the UEFA Cup, and I knew things
were going well for Ronald too. He reached the next step quicker. Of
course, we like to play together. We know each other perfectly. We know
exactly what the other one is thinking, what he's going to do. In one look,
we understand each other. It's big. It's good for us, but also for the
team. But being together is not a necessity. We know that life, our line of
work, will bring us apart again one day."
The one person who suffered the most from that separation was their father
Kees. He had gotten used to cheering for the two Ajax players, and was
happy when Van Gaal made the club get Ronald back for about $1 million.
Orange crush: Frank de Boer (left) had to contain Mexico and Luis Hernandez to earn the Netherlands a quarterfinal appearance (AP)|
Oddly enough, the twins started their career against the same team, PEC
Zwolle, but a couple months apart. Ronald did when he was 17, in 1987. "I
was on the bench. Spelbos got hurt and I went in for him. Ajax led four to
two, but 10 minutes after I went in, the score was tied! I was telling
myself, 'I hope I'm not responsible for this,' and we eventually won 6-4. I
was satisfied," Ronald said. Frank felt the same, but the end result was
different. "We led 1-0 when I went in, and we lost 1-4!"
It wasn't long before they started playing for the national team. Frank is
an excellent defender, and his country was in dire need of one. He was 20
when he played in a 0-1 loss to Italy. Ronald
didn't rejoin his brother until three years later and the March 1993, 6-0
rout of San Marino.
A versatile player, Ronald had a tough time finding his place. "At the
beginning, I was like a yo-yo. I played on the left, then I played on the
right, depending on what was needed. Today, I get a lot more respect,"
Ronald said. He's one of the players whose advice is taken into
consideration now. "It's hard to say of myself that I'm a leader. But I
have this ability to follow my way as well as to guide others. In itself,
the team is more important, but in a match, sometimes it's necessary for
someone to remind the others of a few things, make them follow the coach's
instructions, say a few things. I have that ability."
They're both married, with two daughters each, they both like tennis, both
have the same golf handicap, 14, and both wear the same watch. They have
also both taken an international dimension, and they hope the World Cup
will help them show they're not just "good players from a small country,"
like Ronald says. "In the United
States, in 1994, we couldn't bring what we can bring now. In England, in
1996, leaving aside the sorry turn things took, we didn't understand the
difference between playing matches and playing in a tournament. This time,
we're ready. We're confident, and if this confidence doesn't turn into
arrogance, we can win the World Cup."
If they do, they will get the international recognition they deserve and
maybe consider more profitable possibilities, even if they're under
contract with Ajax until the year 2000. "We've been faithful to Ajax for 12
years," Ronald explained. "Maybe we'll be congratulated for having stayed
until the end, but in the mean time, others will have bought a villa in
Italy or somewhere else!"
Van Gaal would like them to play for him in Barcelona. Ajax management
doesn't want them to leave. Maybe a World Cup success would help.
Copyright 1998, L'Equipe