ideal conditions, anything but ideal training camp

ideal conditions, anything but ideal training camp
Jong Oranje’s team before the practice game with Norway in Spain (3-0 win)

NOS Soccer

  • Thierry Boon

    Follows Jong Oranje on behalf of NOS

  • Thierry Boon

    Follows Jong Oranje on behalf of NOS

In the shadow of the “big” Orange, the Dutch Junior Team headed to Spain last week for a training camp. The stakes? To lay a solid foundation for a successful European Championship next summer. But it all went a little differently than planned.

Radiant debutant

Among the palm trees and white houses, Feyenoord player Quilindschy Hartman cycles from the hotel towards the training field on ‘tranquilo’ mode. A ride of less than five minutes on a mountain bike, over the huge resort in Roldán, just below Murcia.

It is just before 10:30 a.m. and already 24 degrees in southeastern Spain. A bright sun with a breeze. And the rattle of bicycle chains as background noise.

“This is great, isn’t it!!!,” Hartman looks around happily. “The weather is nice, we have a nice field, nice group. Here are all the ingredients for a good week!”

Quilindschy Hartman (r) and Million Manhoef (Vitesse) on bikes

Of chagrin because of dropping out of the Dutch team – he was in the pre-selection for the European Championship qualifiers with France and Gibraltar – there is no question with the Feyenoord player. He makes his debut in Spain for the youngster and is genuinely happy about it.

It is the energy and enthusiasm that national coach Erwin van de Looi is only too happy to see reflected in his team. “Q is a real lover. He smells the field and says, ‘Lovely! We’re going to play great soccer, coach.’ It’s a positive guy,” Van de Looi said.

Many cancellations and shifts

The coach stops after the upcoming European Championship, after a period of five years with the young national team. Working with the best talents of the Netherlands is an honorary job, but at the same time sometimes very difficult. Especially if you, as a coach, want to build and polish your team.

After all, the selection looks different every time. This training camp shows that again. Even before the plane took off from Amsterdam to Spain there are already four cancellations due to injuries.

Jong Oranje training in Spain

Devyne Rensch (Ajax), Jeremie Frimpong (Bayer Leverkusen), Sven Mijnans (AZ) and Mees Hilgers (Twente) cannot be there. Feyenoord’s Quinten Timber, one of the captains, has been out for quite some time with an injury.

Not everyone will stay fit during the training camp at the Dutch Junior side either: Bjorn Meijer (Club Brugge) and Milan van Ewijk (Heerenveen) will not be able to take part in everything in Spain as planned. Meijer is mainly sick in bed. Van Ewijk is not completely well, but is training along.

Young national team training in Spain

Besides the sporting part, team building is an important aspect during such a training camp. Becoming a group that fights for each other and wins matches, later when it really matters at the European Championships. It makes it even more unpleasant that a number of regulars are not there.

Relaxation in resort

The players who do attend, in between hitting a ball on the golf course near the hotel (Toulouse striker Thijs Dallinga turns out to be the footballer with the most talent), going out to dinner together and chill especially in the hotel’s designated relaxation area.

Wouter Burger (FC Basel) and Mitchel Bakker (Bayer Leverkusen) play a game of table tennis, while Micky van de Ven (Wolfsburg) tries to beat Ludovit Reis (HSV) yet again with pool billiards. Others enjoy the sun by the pool or play on the PlayStation in their rooms.

Micky van de Ven at the billiard table

And for those who were wondering: even this generation of soccer players still cards with each other and “just” listens to André Hazes, although their taste in music varies quite a bit. From Drake to Broederliefde and from Spanish sounds to Dutch hits.

“In the end, at Jong Oranje they are normal guys who can just play soccer a little better than their peers. It’s as simple as that,” Van de Looi stated.

From Simons and Brobbey to Schendelaar and Sambo

Twenty minutes away, at the cozy Pinatar Arena in San Pedro del Pinatar, it is a coming and going of national youth selections. Young Belgium plays there. Young Japan passes by.

As well as the peers of Norway and the Czech Republic, European Championship contenders against whom Orange is practicing.

The reserve players stand up for the national anthem at Jong Oranje against Jong Czech Republic

Whereas just a few months back Jong Oranje consisted of players such as Xavi Simons, Brian Brobbey, Lutsharel Geertruida, Gravenberch (now all with Oranje) and Frimpong, lesser-known names such as Jasper Schendelaar (PEC Zwolle), Dirk Proper (NEC) and Shurandy Sambo (Sparta) are now on the match sheet.

“We wanted to work with a selection here that would be as similar as possible to that of the European Championship, as far as we could. But due to circumstances, the composition has changed,” Van de Looi concluded after the duels.

“This training camp shows that there are more guys who can compete at this level. Broadly speaking, we have quite a lot of good players in the Netherlands. That’s positive.”

Self-confident generation tick more individual

He is 51 years old now, Van de Looi. Former Vitesse defender, cup winner as coach with FC Groningen. And now for quite some time at work with the youngest generation of professional footballers.

“What makes this generation different is that they are very self-confident. They know what they want, they have a plan with their career and in doing so they gather people around them,” the coach notes.

National coach Erwin van de Looi gives an interview

“Earlier generations just came and started playing soccer. These guys know what their bodies need, are aware of their nutrition and also have a lot of knowledge tactically. At the same time, it does provide a bit of individualism.”

Van de Looi doesn’t necessarily see that as a negative thing. “In the whole society nowadays it is much more ‘I’ than ‘we’. It’s good that a player can excel at the young national team, because he wants to go to Orange. But he has to do it in a team first.”

To conclude with: “I think they understand that very well, too.”

Kayleigh Williams