Four years ago, he played in the youth of Haarlem and he had to play his age peers of Ajax. The same club who sent him away when he was 14 years old, for being “difficult”.
“I played three years in Haarlem and those years were crucial for me. I realized there what I was doing with my life. I was wasting my talent. I suddenly had to play in second hand jerseys, getting changed in crummy dressing rooms… I was a spoilt kid, not really nice and I was told off in a really harsh way.”
His return to Ajax was a special one. Ajax had a youth tournament in Italy, but many Ajax youngsters weren’t allowed to go due to study obligations. Ajax looked around at satelite clubs in the area and found Van der Wiel. “I played so good that PSV and Feyenoord contacted me for a contract. Ajax quickly stepped in but they only wanted me as an amateur. We didn’t have a lot of money at home, so I was tempted to sign for PSV or Feyenoord, but my new manager said: no no…invest in yourself. Go to Ajax. Revenge yourself. When you’ve made it through and show you learned your lesson, the money will follow…”
Ajax now sees Van der Wiel as a tremendous talent, who’s still developing. But much more relaxed than before. “When I don’t have anything to say, I don’t say anything,” he says now. Interviewing him is hard, because he doesn’t talk without being asked something.
But when you do your best, Van der Wiel reveals a lot. He finished highschool, with Greek and Latin. He buys his shirts at Zeeman (low-cost retailer). He has three younger sisters, wants to play the piano and Daniel Alves is currently his role model.
“Whenever I enter the Zeeman shops, people stare at me. But I don’t care. They have good shirts. I sometimes shop in expensive shops, but I can never find anything I like.”
Recently, he had another tattoo placed. A symbol, stating that people shouldn’t judge each other on external features. “That’s so annoying. I used to come to Ajax with a backpack. Other players would say: hey, did you just come from school?”
Now, his coach gives him all the space and time to develop. “Van Basten is relaxed. When you make a mistake, he doesn’t yell at you. He always allowed me to make mistakes. He gives me confidence, and that’s so important.”
Van der Wiel is proud to be part of Oranje. “But I will remain critical. I’m actually never satisfied about myself.”
It seems the choice will be between him and Dirk Marcellis as right back against Scotlan. You’d think that Van der Wiel, with his offensive qualities, will be the optimal choice in a home game. He made his debut against Tunisia, albeit six minutes. Van der Wiel shows a broad smile. “It’s weird man, when I was 15 years old I played on the street with a Van Persie jersey. I always wanted to be Robin. And now, we’re playing in the same team. How cool is that?”
Today, Van der Wiel focuses on another player: Daniel Alves of Barcelona. He hopes to become that good. “We do have the same style, we both play the whole right flank. Creating combinations, taking a man on, crossing the ball in and scoring. I feel much better on the flank than centrally. My ambitions are open. I don’t play to become a good solid Eredivisie player. I want to make it to the European top. And I’m not good enough to do that as a center back. Or good, good… I just don’t have the physical make up. Most center backs are strong, tall blokes. I think I have more chances to get there on the right flank.”
Listen to this because Greg said so ;)
A mini picspam of Greg getting his pose on.
Just chillin' with his bff from the NT, Elia...no big.
Now for some GABAMF-ery from his Esquire shoot
Disclaimer: This post may or may not have been inspired by the fact that a certain someone tweeted lisse11 and myself recently =D