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The tale of Ibi and Isi

September 27, 2011

In 2005, two footballing teenagers from Utrecht used to do everything together. They grew up together, honed their footballing skills on the streets together, and commuted together to Eindhoven to play for PSV. That year, both teenagers made furore. Ibi, the eldest who was 19 at the time, started to play regularly for the first team and was showing plenty of promise. Isi, the other one who was only 17, was thrown in front of the lions in the Champions League match against AC Milan and managed to hold himself well against none other than Andrea Pirlo. Out of the two, Isi was the more technically gifted one, while Ibi was more of a fighter.

Ibi and Isi were bossom buddies. Best friends. Isi once said that Ibi knows everything of him except his PIN code. Ibi being the elder took extra care of Isi, especially when Isi became a star of the U21 European Championships in 2006 and 2007. In the Holland team containing among others Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Urby Emanuelson, Stijn Schaars and Ryan Babel, Isi became on of the best players of both tournaments even though he was about 5 years younger than the other players at that time. Ibi and Isi were destined for greater things. Together of course.

For the first half of 2007 Isi had to go on loan to FC Twente, to gain more Eredivisie experience. He truly excelled there and it confirmed how big a talent he is. Then in 2008 fate struck. The coaches at PSV had been facing a dilemma for a long time. In their minds Ibi and Isi were like Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder. Bossom buddies who cannot play together. What to do? Isi consulted Ibi and finally he made the decision to leave PSV for Ajax. Isi will now face off Ibi! Marco van Basten saw a highly technical player who could be the next number 10 of Ajax. Ibi himself was becoming more and more important for PSV. Unfortunately for Isi, things weren’t going well at Ajax. He was deemed too light, isn’t able to defend well and was facing a loss of confidence. Being separated from your best buddy does that sometimes.

Ibi kept going forward, becoming the most important player at PSV, captain of the team. He also cemented his place in the Dutch national team. Isi took ages to decide between Holland and Morocco and in the end chose the latter as he knew playing time will be very limited if he chose the former. Again, Ibi and Isi were separated (both could’ve played for the same national team, be it Holland or Morocco).

At Ajax Isi kept getting sidetracked. In the summer of 2010 Isi joined Vitesse on loan. There he regained his confidence and his love for the game. He was their best player by far, even though it took them only 1 goal to save them from relegation. He even became captain of the team. Ibi himself got a dream move to Barcelona in the winter of 2010. The move he was waiting for.

While Ibi was reaching the final of the World Cup with Holland, Ibi was busy negotiating with Vitesse. Ajax and Vitesse agreed on a fee of €1M but Isi didn’t agree on a buy-out clause of €12M. He said that since Vitesse got him for only €1M it is not fair to put in a buy-out clause that high. He went back to Ajax where there wasn’t any place for him. Coach Frank de Boer had made plans without him and has a full array of midfielders. As he didn’t want to disrupt the team, Isi is send to the reserves.

While Ibi is playing with world class stars like Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta, Isi is filling his days training and playing with potential youngsters. At 17 he played Champions League, six years later he’s playing reserve football.

Ibi and Isi still have a dream to play together again. What was once a reasonable dream now seems to become more impossible by the day. Hopefully one day Ibrahim Afellay and Ismail Aissati can play together again. They deserve it. Both are wonderful players, both are equally talented, but one luckier than the other. Who said football is a fair game?

Mounir El Hamdaoui & Ajax: A Match Made in Hell

August 22, 2011

When Marko Pantelic refused a new contract from Ajax during the summer of 2010, Ajax was desperately in need of a striker. The other striker, Dario Cvitanich, is not good enough and there weren’t any good strikers playing in the youth. Martin Jol then used his network to approach Mounir El Hamdaoui, back then playing for AZ where he was club top scorer and voted 2009 Dutch Footballer of the Year. A year later and El Hamdaoui is now banned from the first team, having openly clashed with the new coach Frank de Boer. He is now playing with the reserves while waiting for a new club to come and get him. Read more

Richard Witschge

July 29, 2011

One of my all-time favourite players is Richard Witschge. A very talented footballer from Amsterdam, he was the younger brother of Rob Witschge and a product of the famed Ajax youth academy from the same generation as Bergkamp, de De Boer brothers and Bryan Roy. Johan Cruijff gave him his debut for Ajax aged 17 on the left flank and he made that flank his. He made the Dutch squad for the World Cup 1990, which was memorable for other reasons and went on to play 31 times for Oranje. Read more…

Eredivisie transfers so far

July 19, 2011

It’s been almost halfway through the transfer period and the Dutch clubs have been quite active buying and selling players. The season will start soon and here is a recap on the current status of the Top 3 and Feyenoord. Read more

Stats, Tackle, Jaap Stam

June 21, 2011

I am a big fan of Simon Kuper. His writing on football is among the best and he seems to be fascinated with the statistics and economics of football, just like I am (or at least think I am). In his latest column for FT, he wrote about the data revolution in football. To my surprise, he mentioned that Jaap Stam was let go by Sir Alex Ferguson in August 2001 not because of his autobiography but because of statistics. The statistics said that Stam was tackling less, therefore he must be in decline. SAF sold him and Stam showed that he is still a world class defender the years after that. Read more

July 1st, 1976

June 3, 2011

On July 1st 1976 two Dutch strikers were born. Both are now regarded as great strikers, yet their career path cannot be any more different. They only played 23 matches together but what could have been a great partnership ended up in a disappointment for a nation. Here is the rise & fall of Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Read more

Champions League Final 2011

May 30, 2011

I’m sure everybody who has even a slight interest in football knows the result of last weekend’s Champions League final between Manchester United and FC Barcelona. And I’m sure most football fans have an opinion on the game. Well, here’s mine (a bit late, I know): Read more

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