Gregory Kurtley van der Wiel
Every now and then I need to pinch myself. Which 24 year old can claim to have won the league title twice, the Johan Cruyff Schaal (Dutch Super Cup) twice and one cup? Besides this I was awarded Talent of the Year and was able to have my own Cruyff Court placed on the island of Curaçao. And last but not least: I’ve played a World Cup final in 2010 and have 29 caps for The Netherlands.
Perhaps all of this is down to the fact that I was born in a good year: February 3, 1988, several months before the summer during which Holland won the European Cup in West Germany. I started playing football myself a few years later at DCG, but was scouted by Ajax when I was 7 years old. This was the best thing that could have happened to me, because the Ajax academy has made me become the player that I am nowadays.
In 2002 I temporarily went to Haarlem, who were cooperating with Ajax at the time, but the club has gone bankrupt now. I learned a lot during this period, mainly what I had to do to succeed in professional football. By myself, I fought myself back to an Ajax return in 2005 and I was allowed to join the reserve team.
That I wished to receive the Johan Cruyff Award for Talent of the Year out of the hands of Henk ten Cate was not a coincidence. He was the person who let me make my first team debut on March 11 2007 – just nineteen years old. During the away game at FC Twente, I came on for the injured Jaap Stam and we won 4-1. During that season, I would be playing 4 games, and the season after that I appeared in 6 games.
During the 2008-2009 season I became first team regular, playing 32 games and scoring twice. I will never forget my first goal against FC Utrecht, just like my debut for the national team on February 11 2009 against Tunisia as a substitute for John Heitinga. During the 2009-2010 season, I was the only player in the Eredivisie besides goal keepers to have played every minute of every game. I also scored 6 goals and was named Talent of the Year. Unfortunately we could not put the crown on a fantastic season by winning the World Cup with the national team. Despite beating Denmark, Japan, Cameroon, Brazil and Uruguay, we finished empty handed. Spain proved to be too strong for us after extra time in Johannesburg.
Meeting the queen, the tour of the Amsterdam canals and the celebration on Museumplein are memories to cherish. But what if…? Fortunately, there’s another chance for us to win an international trophy in Poland and Ukraine this summer.