Five of the biggest names in recent Dutch football history were honoured today at a special ceremony at the seaside resort of Noordwijk. One of them responded emotionally to the honour bestowed on him.
Four of the former internationals were “knighted” by the Royal Dutch Football Association for having more than 100 caps to their names, a feat that had never been achieved before their generation.
The fifth, Ruud Gullit, was given a “knighthood” for his “outstanding contribution” to the joint Belgian-Dutch bid to bring the Football World Cup to the Low Countries in 2018.
First image below from left to right:
Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven, AC Milan, Sampdoria, Chelsea
PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Al-Jazira
Giovanni van Bronckhorst
Feyenoord, Glasgow Rangers, Arsenal, Barcelona
Frank de Boer
Ajax, Barcelona, Galatasaray, Glasgow Rangers, Al-Rayyan, Al-Shamal
Edwin van der Sar
Ajax, Juventus, Fulham, Manchester United
The president of the Dutch Football Association, Michael van Praag, praised the five stars for “promoting Dutch football both at home and abroad”. Presenting the decorations, Van Praag blended his praise with a number of anecdotes.
The audience learned that young Frank de Boer, after signing his first professional contract, sent a bottle of fine cognac to the then president of Ajax, who happened to be Michael van Praag. They were told that Giovanni van Bronckhorst and Phillip Cocu have been involved in football-related social projects for children and that Edwin van der Sar is currently preparing for the New York marathon ("if his calves will let him").
Then Ruud Gullit took the floor to express his gratitude to the Dutch FA, which had given him “so much”. And to express regret over the fact that “here, in this very hotel in Noordwijk, I walked out on the Dutch team in 1994”, thus abruptly ending his international career after 66 caps.
“At the time, I honestly thought that I had taken the right decision,” Gullit said with tears in his eyes, adding that he found it “quite extraordinary now to be honoured by the FA” in the presence of the current Dutch squad.
His words prompted a long applause from the audience, which included quite a few players from the current generation of Dutch football stars who are getting close to 100 caps:
Rafael van der Vaart
Ajax, HSV Hamburg, Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur
AZ Alkmaar, HSV Hamburg, Málaga
Mark van Bommel
PSV, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, AC Milanl