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Van Beveren tried not to take credit when the Strikers' defense got them into the semifinals of the playoffs last year, and this season, when the team went to an all-out offensive style and left itself vulnerable on defense, he didn't complain. "Last year was nice for me," he says, "as if a script was written. I made some nice saves and we won a few shootouts, so people were happy with me. This year I play the same, but because my goals-against average is higher everybody says, 'Oh, bad.' " Fort Lauderdale's first-year coach, Eckhard Krautzun, knew that the Strikers' new style of play would yield more goals, but he also knew that with van Beveren in the nets the damage would be kept to a minimum.
"I think his pride is sometimes hurt," Krautzun says, "but Jan plays for the team and he isn't bothered by the American way of measuring a goalie. Because we play so risky, it puts a lot of pressure on him, but he understands that American fans would rather see us win 5-4 than 1-0. He understands the American way of life." And van Beveren also understands one other thing. "An average team with a good goalie can be one of the top teams in the league," he says, "but a good team with a bad goalie will always do poorly."
Van Beveren has always been a good goalie, even from the time he began playing soccer with his 5-year-old brother, Wil, at the age of three. Both Jan and Wil were exceptional athletes, and they always received plenty of encouragement at home. One of the boys' grandfathers, Jan, for whom the younger Jan is named, was a Dutch cowboy with the Amsterdam circus—presumably he wore six-shooters and wooden boots—and the boys' father, Wÿnand, represented Holland in the sprints at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, competing alongside Jesse Owens in the 200.
When Jan was 17 he took a train to Rotterdam to join his brother, who was playing there for Sparta in Holland's First Division. During Jan's first year with the club he practiced three times a day, taking thousands of balls in the nets, and his hard work paid off. At the age of 19 van Beveren became the youngest goalie ever on the National Team.
Later, when van Beveren was playing for PSV Eindhoven in 1970, he was elbowed in the face while diving for a ball. One of his front teeth was knocked out and he nearly bit off his tongue. It's a mark of his competitiveness and courage that he played the final 20 minutes of the first half with cotton wadded in his mouth to staunch the flow of blood and then had his tongue sewed back together at halftime so he could finish the game. "If I do something, I want to win," he says. "Even when I play games with my own kids I must win all the time. I know that's bad, but I can't help it. Sometimes I read about marathoners who have lost the race but are so determined to finish that they are still running after the lights in the stadium have been turned off. I can't understand that, because to win is a very big thing for me."
To stand still for more than a minute at a time is also a very big thing for van Beveren. He is a relentless nail-biter and unfiltered-cigarette smoker, drinks enormous quantities of coffee loaded with sugar and burns up so much nervous energy in the course of a day that even in the off-season his weight never rises. "When a team is traveling," van Beveren says, "you can always pick out the goalie because he's more nervous than the rest, a little more crazy." Once, during a delay at the Jacksonville airport, van Beveren crawled around on the floor chasing babies and then stood at a gate greeting arriving passengers by shaking each one's hand and saying, in what he believed to be a Midwestern accent, "Welcome to Chicago. There's nothing to do here." Sometimes he just stands in the middle of an airport concourse and pitches quarters high into the air, catching them on his broad forehead.
It is therefore not surprising that the most difficult of van Beveren's jobs isn't making the spectacular saves that are his stock in trade, but waiting for the opportunity to make them. "There's a lot of pressure," says Nuttall. "You stand there for 90 minutes and worry about the one ball you may not get." In 17 professional seasons, van Beveren hasn't gotten used to the lonely vigil. "We are in a position where we have to wait for what's coming at us," he says. "Sometimes I want to win and still I can't have any influence on the game. I have to wait until they do something. I want to run and work, but always I have to wait."
Between games, van Beveren shuts himself off almost completely from soccer, indulging his passion for collecting while trying to keep his head and his hands busy. When he was in Holland, he began his collecting with purchases of antique furniture, Oriental rugs and grandfather clocks, of which he still has nearly a dozen. As his collections grew more valuable, his life became more precarious. His home was burglarized twice in Holland, the second time by men wearing ski masks and toting machine guns. They rammed a stolen car through a wall to avoid setting off the alarm system wired to the windows and doors. "It was like Starsky and Hutch," he says. "In Holland our home had alarms and iron shutters that we closed at night to keep out the criminals. Finally I said, 'Enough.' It was like living in a bunker. You become a prisoner of your possessions." When van Beveren's first house in Fort Lauderdale was burglarized, too, he decided to move Petra and their sons, Raymond and Roger, into a more secure apartment building overlooking the ocean.
Van Beveren also enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles, particularly the extraordinarily difficult ones of as many as 5,000 pieces. Sometimes he will spend six or seven hours in a row in his living room, sitting beneath a print of Rembrandt's Night Watch, fitting the puzzles together. "The first time I did one," he says, "I didn't know where to start. So I spread the pieces out and just looked at it for a week. Once I start, I have to finish the puzzle even if I die at the table. The wonderful thing is that you feel you're creating something." When van Beveren completes a puzzle, he looks at it for a moment and then tears it apart.
Van Beveren also collects stamps, noodles on the piano and has taught himself to play the saxophone. Now he wants to run in a marathon, just to see if he can do it. "I'm a guy who wants to find out all the things in life by myself, without the influence of other people," he says.