‘He always stood up for others’
Exactly ten years ago died the man for whom there were serious suspicions that yellow-black blood flowed through his veins and for whom the title “Mister Vitesse” is still modest. His warmth is still missed. And in these days perhaps even a little extra.
Due to a legal joust between Vitesse and the owner of the Gelredome stadium, the club is in danger of losing its license. Theo Bos would think something of that. Who came to Vitesse, came to him.
“It’s not about what they call you, it’s about how you are remembered,” soccer coach John van den Brom says of Bos, still emotional when he thinks back to his friend. “When I think back on the things we experienced, I get a smile on my face.”
Former footballer Theo Janssen also looks back with warm feelings on the adventures he had with Theo Bos.
“I remember when we were playing an away game at NAC or Roda JC and I was attacked from behind by a supporter. Theo was an assistant coach and was standing next to me. Before I knew it, I saw that supporter flying through the air. That was Theo. He always stood up for others.”
Not surprisingly, according to Janssen, who is now assistant coach of Vitesse, the ghost of Bos still haunts Arnhem.
Bos grew up in working-class district Geitenkamp, played more than 400 official matches for Vitesse and was subsequently active at the club in various roles. From youth coach to head coach. “Above all, he was a special person,” said Bos.
When I was Anderlecht’s trainer, a deathly ill Theo came specially to Belgium to visit a training session. That moved me tremendously.
The now 41-year-old Janssen got to know Bos as a 12-year-old kid. “I was a ball boy at the old Nieuw-Monnikenhuize stadium. Theo was playing there and came up to me. He was friendly and interested.”
Later, Janssen and Bos ran into each other more often. Very briefly as a teammate. “I trained with the first team when I was sixteen or seventeen. This was Bos’ last season as a soccer player.”
The best memories of Bos came later for Janssen, who broke his leg in 2001. “That was a super difficult time. I lost my motivation and had trouble staying fit. At one point, Theo started cycling with me every day. We talked to each other and that got me through. He is a warm person with cynical and dry humor.”
The friendship between Van den Brom and Bos goes back even further. They became teammates with each other in 1986, just before Vitesse promoted to the premier league, and played together for nearly ten seasons. “We experienced so much. Also with Edward Sturing there, Theo and I were sleeping buddies and talked a lot with each other then. Also about things that were not about soccer.”
For example, the conversations were about children and their wives, who got along well. Van den Brom does not want to flatten the memories of Bos into anecdotes about carnivals and soccer humor, for example. “The best memory is that I was his teammate and friend for many years,” he said.
Nevertheless, there is one specific moment that Van den Brom does cite. “When I was Anderlecht’s trainer, a deathly ill Theo came specially to Belgium to visit a training session. That moved me tremendously.”
According to Van den Brom, it marks the character of “rough-hewn” Bos, who was born in Nijmegen and the son of an unmarried 18-year-old woman who put him up for adoption. He ended up with the Arnhem family of Bos.
That Bos was militant until the last moment is evident from an interview reporter Joep Schreuder had with him more than two months before Bos’ death. At the time, Bos was undergoing chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer and receiving daily radiation for weeks. “I want to get the most out of it,” he said.
The interview will stay with Schreuder forever. “Theo Bos was an authentic man with few tomfoolery. As a soccer player and as a trainer. The strength was his simplicity. It is not surprising that he is still on a pedestal at Vitesse.”
Poignant interview with ailing Theo Bos (2012)
Bos finally passed away on Feb. 28, 2013, just 47 years old. At his club, he is still not forgotten. Also on Friday, during the home game against AZ, Arnhem will commemorate him during the traditional “Number 4 match.
A stand has now been named after him, matches are played in his memory, ‘his’ number four is no longer forgiven and a bust of him can be found at the Papendal training complex.
Theo Bos was not of whining, but of doing. Every club needs a few of those.
Janssen walks by there almost every day. “Partly because of that, I still think of him often. I’m also still in touch with his widow.”
Van den Brom, currently working for Lech Poznan. is also still in contact with Bos’ family and still thinks of him often. “The other day in Poland, because Theo also worked there, I saw a picture of him. Then I could cry.”
Still, positive feelings predominate with Janssen. Especially because of the way Bos was in life. “He was not of whining, but of doing. Every club needs a few of those.”