HVV – Return to former glory – Episode 6 – Steady as she goes

The next few months I had a respite from international football, the next matches that Solomon Island was going to play was against Cook Islands Under 20s and American Samoa Under 20s in a couple of weeks after not having to have played between November and March. I was still pondering my options what I wanted to do but one thing was sure I was not going to stay the manager of Solomon Island under 20 and 27 hours of traveling each time we had a (friendly). I was contemplating if I wanted to stick with only being a coach of a team or also keep doing international football. During the cup game against Duno I talked to their manager Lodewijk de Kruif who used to be the manager of Bangladesh and through him, I heard that they are looking for a new under 20 manager. That might be an opportunity, it would at least be a step up and a cut my travel time in half with “only” thirteen-hour flight.

We again had multiple people joining the club all on a free transfer and we also had four players leaving, mostly reserves and under 18 players who were not needed anymore or who started complaining about the lack of playing time in the first team. Out of the players leaving there was one that was worth mentioning that was midfielder Melvin Visser, the Ajax youth player who came to HVV at the start of the season he got a contract offer by VVV Venlo who play in the Eerste Divisie, the second tier in the Netherlands. Although they only offered him an amateur contract as he has with us playing for a club who plays five tiers above is a huge chance who he could not pass.

As said, we also had a lot of players coming in, Andrew Dykstra a Dutch-American keeper who used to play for D.C. United but was released signed for us. We also had another American joining us, Championship Manager 03/04 legend Freddy Adu who last played for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the United Soccer League. Former Viborg Fodsports Forening and FC Groningen defender Jeroen Veldmate, former FC Twente midfielder Dario Tanda, former Cambuur Leeuwarden winger Furdjel Narsingh and former FC Volendam left-back Jermano Lo Fo Sang all joined the club.

We also had incoming and outgoing staff. Rob Sidoel was our Chief Scout when I came to the club and I finally found somebody to replace him, Wim van Zwam former Holland under 19 manager and Top OSS manager was signed as the new Chief Scout. After only 6 months we also had to replace our Director of Football, Rob Landsbergen left to become under 19 coach for KMSK Deinze in Belgium who play in the Proximus League, the second tier. Rob Landsbergen was replaced as Director of Football with Jan Everse the former Feyenoord and Ajax player. We also signed a sport scientist for our 1st team, one for our reserve team and one for our under 19 team, a fitness coach, a physio and a Data Analyst.

In the District Beker in the 6th round, we had to play at the same level but in a different group than us but we won it by a 92th-minute winner by our right back Henk Dijkhuizen. In the quarter-final, we had to play TAC ’90 who play one division above us. we were 1-0 behind for most of the game but in the 51st minute Mustapha Riga and in the 75th minute Samet Bulut scored the winner for us. In the Semi-Final we had to go against Heinenoord who also play one division above us. This game was easier than expected, for a club that reached played a division above us and reached the semi-final they were not hard to beat and we won 4-0. In the final, we had to play FC Rijnvogels who play in the Derde Divisie (Third Division) which is three divisions above us. Although we lost we should be proud of how we played and how close the game was. After full time it was 3-3 and in extra time both teams scored one goal which means at 4-4 it wend to a penalty shoot-out. we missed two penalties and lost the final. Although we did lose the cup final it meant we qualify for the KNVB-beker voor amateurs for which the finalist of the 4 regional cups play.

The competition also went well, we won all 7 games and scored 25 goals and only 3 goals against us. The only game that was close was our first game, our game against BMT which we won 1-0. We beat Foreholt with 3-1 and after that, we win from Wateringen with 2-0. Then we started scoring a lot, pir game against GDA we won 6-0, VUC we beat 4-1, RKDEO we beat 5-0 and finally we beat Wilhelminus with 4-1. Our duo upfront Adham El Idrissi and Samet Bulut scored a ton and also Lorenzo Davids, cousin of Edgar Davids scored a couple of goals for us.

The league looks good, in the standing we’re 14 points ahead of Laakkwartier and our goal difference is three times their goal difference. The expectation this season by the board was to avoided relegation but that ship has sailed many moons ago because with only six games to go we’re already sure of the playoffs and possible one game away of securing the championship in this division. We’re already going to look ahead to next season in the 1e Klasse and look for players to strengthen us next season.

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HVV – Return to former glory – Episode 5 – First Season Halfway point

The months after the Oceania Under 20 Championship we had multiple friendlies planned. In October we had two games, both at home, one against Tonga Under 20s and the other one against Fiji Under 20s and in November we had home games planned against Vanuatu Under 20s and Samoa Under 20s. All these games should be easily winnable but it did not go as planned. We started well with a 3-1 win against Tonga Under 20s but in our second game we were easily beaten by Fiji Under 20s, we lost 3-0. In our December friendlies, it did not go much better, we drew 2-2 against Vanuatu Under 20s and the same for the second friendly in the December international window we drew 2-2 this time against Samoa Under 20s. The flying from the Netherlands to the Solomon Islands and what I got from it was limited, at times we did great as we played during the Oceania Under 20 Championship and then we suddenly mess up during the friendlies in games and seems to be unable to win games we should win. With ending runner up in the Oceania Under 20 Championship we qualified for the Under 20 World Cup in 2017 but after that, I decided I would resign after we played the Under 20 World Cup.

There was more exciting news during these international windows, although we played in the seventh tier we had players who are good enough to play at a much higher level. This was made clear when two of our players were called up during the international window. Haris Alispahic who is German but from Bosnia and Herzegovina descent was part of our reserves, we bought from 5e Klasse (10th tier) club SVV ’91 and he is now called up for the Bosnia and Herzegovina under 19 team. The other player is our striker Adham El Idrissi who also has a Morrocan passport. He scored 20 goals in 12 games in the competition and he was called up for Morocco Under 20s. Haris Alispahic played in the Bosnia and Herzegovina under 19 game against Romania which they drew and Adham El Idrissi scored in the Morocco Under 20 game against Zambia which they also drew.

Even during my periods of absence, the football season for HVV went on. The train of incoming transfers also went although it slowed down this period with only one incoming transfer. We signed thirty-year-old right winger Wesley Verhoek, He was best as a right wing but could also play as a left winger and as a midfielder on both the right and the left. We could do with another experienced player, he had played for our rival Ado Den Haag, FC Twente, Feyenoord and last year played for Indian club Pune in the Hero Indian Super League. He had decided to return to the Netherlands and we where glad he signed for us.

Due to me being away for international games with Solomon Island under 20 I did miss quite a few games, I tried to be present at as many possible games but the long distance and the long traveling time did not help much. I was present for the two cup games we played. In the Districtsbeker West2 fourth round, we drew DUNO who plays two divisions below us and we won the cup game 2-0 with goals by Nourdin Boukhari and Collins John. The next game, we 5th round of the Districtsbeker West2 we had to play Voorschoten ’97 who plays a division above us. As to be expected, it was a difficult match and after 90 minutes it was still 0-0. In the extra time, in the 109th minute, right winger Mustapha Riga made the 1-0 and we were through to the 6th round. In the next round, we’ll have to play OVV who play at the same level as us.

Until now we where unbeaten, we hadn’t even lost a point so far but that changed we lost 4 points by drawing one game and losing one game. Against middle of the table Teylingen we played horrible, we where 3-0 behind and in the last minute where able to score a 3-1 but that was too little too late. Against SVC ’08 we should have won, they where higher up on the table but the had only won one game of their last six games. In the end it was 0-0 and we went home with only a point. Our other four games we won easily, we won 3-0 against Te Werve, 2-0 against TOGB, 5-1 against Laakkwartier en finally 6-2 against Valken ’68 with hattricks by Samet Bulut and Adham El Idrissi

Halfway through the season, we are five points ahead of VUC and six ahead of number three Laakkwartier. In 13 matches we scored 57 times and had 13 goals scored against us. Samet Bulut and Adham El Idrissi so far are top scorers so far this season with twenty and nineteen goals with the number three in the list only having twelve goals. In Average rating Samet Bulut and Adham El Idrissi and Derk Boerrigter are top of the list. In assist, Adham El Idrissi and Derk Boerrigter are 2nd and 3rd behind Xavier Augustin with eleven assists.

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HVV – Return to former glory – Episode 4 – Season Start & Oceania Under 20 Championship

After the preseason I flew back to the Solomon Island, a month ago we played two friendlies against Cook Island and Tahiti and we were scheduled to play three friendlies in preparation for the Oceania Under 20 Championship. The Oceania Under 20 Championship was the continental championship for under 20 teams in Oceania which was held every other year. I was satisfied with the draw of the groups, we missed New Zealand who by far was the strongest country and who was luckily drawn into group A. Group B consisted of us, Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, and Vanuatu while group A consisted of New Zealand, Samoa, New Caledonia, and Fiji. The group really could go either way, most countries were pretty similar in strength. Most countries were pretty similar in strength and it could go either way.

We started the preparations for the Oceania Under 20 Championship with a friendly against Tahiti who we would also play in our group games. Last time we drew against them and this time we won 3-1 also thanks to an own goal by one of the Tahiti Defenders. The second game was also against the team we already played, we played against the Cook Island, last time we won 2-1 but this time we did better by winning 3-1. Our final game was against American Samoa who had to play in the qualification round for Oceania Under 20 Championship which they ended up last with only getting one point. In our friendly, we lost 1-3 which showed how close most countries in Oceania were and you never knew. It was almost always almost a coin toss who would win. After these games, we made our way by plane to Cook Island where the tournament was held.

We checked into the hotel, we trained and a couple of days later we had to play our first game. The first game was against Vanuatu Under 20s, we won the game pretty easily with two goals by Marshall Futa en Gabriel Aimaea. Our Second game was against Tahiti Under 20s, often seen as the second strongest team in Oceania they were pretty close in strength compared to the other countries and far away from strength compared to New Zealand. We drew 2-2 with goals by Gabriel Aimaea and George Suri. With four points out of three games, it looked good but we still had to do our best to keep our first spot in the group so to evade New Zealand in the Semi Final. Our final game in group B was against Papua New Guinea Under 20s, we scraped by with a 2-3 win with goals by Gabriel Aimaea who scored twice and Rex Masibata. Because we won our group we evaded New Zealand and played against Samoa Under 20s who won the qualification round and ended up second in a group with New Zealand, New Caledonia Under 20s and Fiji Under 20s. The players were tired after playing three games in seven days, something they are not accustomed too in the Soloman Island league but although that was the case we played well against Samoa Under 20s, we won the game with again two goals by Gabriel Aimaea. September 17th we played the final, as to be expected against New Zealand who is much stronger than any other country. Although that being the case, we lost but we did play well, we lost 2-1 with the only goal being scored on our side by Gabriel Aimaea. Gabriel Aimaea also was the top scorer for Oceania Under 20 Championship 2016. Getting to the final also meant we qualified for the Under 20 World Cup 2017.

Although I was not present at the club I stayed on top of things including transfers. We signed another seven players, we signed 39-year-old Moroccan international Nourdin Boukhari from GLZ Delfshaven, attacker Samet Bulut who did not play for Jong Ajax signed for us, left-back Bob Groenendijk who played 1 match for Jong PSV signed from us, Rightback Henk Dijkhuizen who used to play for Eredivisie club Roda JC but was released, Jong Ajax midfielder Abdel Malek el Hasnaoui and 29 year old attacker Tim Janssen. Our final signing a friend of mine, Diego Sinagra who is also known as Diego Armando Maradona jr, the illegitimate son of Argentine national footballer Diego Maradona who was later legitimized.

During my absence, the football season for HVV also started, they already played six games which was almost a quarter of the season plus also the 2nd round of the Districtsbeker West2, one of the cups for amateurs. In six duels we scored an overwhelming thirty-five times and seven goals were scored against us. We started with a monster victory of 11-0 against BMT, after this we won 4-1 against Foreholte, Wateringse Veld GONA we won 5-1, 4-1 against GDA, 5-1 against OFB, 8-2 against VUC, and finally 3-1 against RKDEO. When I came back there were two more games to play in the first period of the season, a competitive match against Wilhelmus and a cup game for the Districtsbeker West2 3rd round against Maense who plays a division below us. Against Wilhelmus unlike most other games we kept a clean sheet and won 5-0. In the districtsbeker West2 3rd round game against Maense despite playing against a team of a division below us they scored two goals but nonetheless, we won 4-2.

The start of the season was good, we won all seven of our seven games, we scored a boatload of goals and as it seems and somewhat to be expected we were much stronger than the opposition in this division. In the league stand we where already five points ahead of the number two in our competition, West2 2e Klasse B after only seven games. If we keep this up becoming champions of this division seem to be inevitable.

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HVV – Return to former glory – Episode 3 – And so it begins

On May 28th, two weeks after the disastrous season where HVV was almost demoted to the 3e Klasse I signed a contract making me the head coach of HVV. It was still almost a month before the start of the competition which started on June 20th so I had enough time to make me familiar with the club, the staff, and the players. As much as possible I tried to make myself familiar with the players but at this level, the information that I had about the players was limited at best but that was what I had to work for with now, at least before the preseason started and I could see them playing with my own eyes and assess their abilities and how good they where and eventually made some additions to the team. I was sure we could use some additions after how last season went.

After the previous head coach Edmund Vriesde left after 8 years of being head coach there his assistant and most of the staff left the club which let the short sorely short of staff. The only people left where Jason Janssen who took over temporarily after Edmund Vriesde was fired and Head Physio Melvin Stafleu. Both were young and inexperienced and probably not up to the job at hand. This was quickly fairly resolved, within a few weeks after I signed more staff members were signed by the board, big names who just like me were persuaded by the compelling argument and the ambitiousness of the club. Former PSV keeper and seven-time international Ronald Waterreus was signed as my assistant manager, Former Feyenoord player Jan van Deinsen was signed as reserve manager, Former Ado Den Haag player Joop Lankhaar was signed as Under 19 Manager. Former PSV keeper Wim de Ron signed as goalkeeping coach, former international Orlando Engelaar as under 19 Assistant, Former international and Ajax player Andy van der Meyde as Reserve Coach and finally Former PSV player Rob Landsbergen as Director of Football and Head of Youth Development. With the exception of me, all internationals or at least played for a top tier club in the Netherlands which was intimidating.

Before the preseason started I also had to fly to the Solomon Island for the two under 29 friendlies we had planned. It was a long flight, first to Brisbane for 22 hours and from there a 3-hour flight to Honiara. The first one was against the Cook Islands Under 20s and the second one was against Tahiti Under 20s. We played at home at the Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara the capital of the Island. It was the only stadium on the Island and calling it a stadium might be an exaggeration, it was at the level of lower league football. It did not have any official capacity but no more than 20,000 would fit the surrounding grassland. I recruited some local football coached to help me and also to overcome the language barrier seeing although English was the official language only 2% speaks English fluently. With the help of my staff, who actually did most of the work we selected twenty-three under twenty players for the upcoming under 20 matches. We week before the first game we came together and did our first training and the level of football was shockingly bad. Luckily most of our opponents were equally bad or worse so that was a reassurance. The first game we played against the Cook Island, the game went better than expected we won with 2-1. The second game we played against Tahiti Under 20s who are traditionally one of the stronger footballing nations of the Pacific Islands. In the end, we kept them to a draw, the match ended in 1-1 which I was satisfied with. I went on the long flight back home, I would have to return in 2 months for 3 friendly matched and also the Oceania Under 20 Championship 2018.

Two weeks later the preseason started, we started early and had a long preseason which I was looking forward to. After the first two trainings, I had a pretty good idea about the players and the selection in general. There were a few good players like Defender Yoeri Jenner, Midfielder Thierry Seaw, Defender Saleh Dahmani, and attacker Boy Wotte. We would need quite some reinforcement for our team. I knew of some young players who mostly played 5e Klasse (lowest tier) but where pretty good so signed them, I signed 17-year-old winger Jim Holtkamp, Midfielder Haris Alispahic, Luka Ulrich and 18-year-old keeper Ralf Nietfeld, attacking midfielder Thijs van Bremen and Midfielder Haris Alispahic. For some experience I signed players with Eredivisie players, I signed 34-year-old Defender Danny Mathijssen from RBC, Keeper Cees Paauwe, Defender Milan Berck Beelenkamp, Defender Karim Saïdi and keeper Beau Molenaar.

From there it kinda escalated with the transfers, we kept bringing in new players. It was a mix of (older) former professionals and Ajax Youth players who did not get a new contract who I knew from my time at Ajax. Former Ajax youth players that we signed were wingbacks Shaquill Sno and Rodney Lopes Cabral, attacking midfielder Melvin Vissers and attacker Adham El Idrissi. Other players, we signed attacker Collins John, midfielder Lorenzo Davids, Wingers Etienne Esajas and wingback Tim de Cler, Winger Derk Boerrigter, Defender Noah Barendse, and Attacker Mustapha Riga. Finally, we signed Attacker George Weah Jr who I knew from my time as a player in Italy, he was the son of former AC Milan player, Ballon d’Or winner and presidential candidate George Weah. It really was a mix between older experience and talented youth, our selection was already at a level far above that of this and probably clubs a few levels above us.

So I could get a good idea of the players I started with a game against our under 18 team and a second game against our reserves. We disappointingly drew against our under 18 but won 4-0 against our reserves. Our first serious game was against PFC which we barely won 2-1, our second match we played against the reserves of our big local rivals Ado Den Hague who play in the Eredivisie and we narrowly lost with 2-3. After this we played a sequence of games against lower league and weaker teams that mostly went well, we won 5-0 against RVV Kocatepe, we won 6-3 against IJVV Stormvogels, we won 1-0 against Legmeervogels and, we won 3-2 against SDO Bussum. After these game the level of our opponents went up, we played against VV Assendelft who play at the same level but in a different group and we lost with 1-3, we played against the reserves of LOSC Lille which we also lost this time with 1-2 and for our final preseason match where lucky to win from Overmaas who also played at the same level as us with 4-2 mostly because of the two own goals they made.

The board and the press both expect us now to get promoted which, seeing the players that we have should technically be easily attainable but ofcourse you never know what happens. With this many good players, everybody will probably want to play which can lead to tensions, we can have injuries or we can just not have the luck we need to lose games that we should win.

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HVV – Return to former glory – Episode 2 – Road to HVV

I love playing football but a football career has an end date, the longevity of a football career is very limited. There are exceptions on this but generally, field players retire between the age of 32 and 34 and goalkeepers might keep playing till they are 40. Seeing the limited time you have as a footballer you also have to think about what to do after you hang up your boots and retire as a player. For me the choice was always very clear, I wanted to stay in football and wanted to become a coach. I signed for Ajax Amateurs at age thirty I knew my career as a footballer would be dwindling down so I also started working on my coaching badges to move into coaching when my career was over. I started with the Pupillen Trainer badge which would allow me to coach kids between the ages of five and thirteen. The next badge was Junior Trainer which allowed me to train kids between the ages of thirteen and nineteen. I took a job as a youth coach of ASV De Dijk an amateur club who were just promoted to the Eerste Klasse.

I also started working on my Uefa C youth badge while training youth teams at ASV De Dijk. I was lucky enough to be a player of Ajax amateurs which opened doors for me. Ajax Amateurs played and trained on The Toekomst the facilities they shared with the (professional) Ajax youth teams. Because of that, I knew many of the youth coaches of Ajax one of them being Brian Tevreden with whom I played at Ajax Amateurs and I was allowed to intern under him as assistant for the Ajax under 12 teams as part of my Uefa C youth badge. After I got my Uefa C youth license I started working as a youth coach for Eerste Divisie club Almere City FC which was an affiliate of Ajax as a youth coach. After a year I returned to Ajax to be the successor of Detlef Le Grand as the trainer/coach of the second team of Ajax amateurs who played in the Reserve Hoofdklasse, the highest division for amateur reserve teams. We did well, as the team more often than not did they won the Reserve Hoofdklasse. I also started with my Uefa B license and I got dispensation for my internship because I was trainer-coach of Ajax Amateur 2.

It did not take long after I got my Uefa B license that I got phone calls of clubs who where interested in signing my as their head coach. This ranged from former professional club RBC who played started in the 5e Klasse the lowest tier in the Dutch football system and failed to get promoted from the 4e Klasse (9th tier) to a HVV who played in the 2nd Klasse (7th tier) and narrowly escaped demotion to 3e klasse (8th tier) to amateur teams who’s under 19 teams in the tweede divisie (third tier), under 17 Eerste Divisie and under 15 Eredivisie (top tier) and many other offer which where in some degree interested in possibly signing me. All offers where tempting, coaching at the top tiers at youth level was what I always wanted, coaching at such a high level would be good for my career too because we would be playing against professional clubs. On the other hand taking a gig as head coach at a senior level would mean autonomy, I would be standing on one’s own legs and could my own decisions.

I decided to dismiss the offers for trainer coach as a youth team level and focus on the offers for manager positions for senior teams. I did not care too much for the level the more important thing for me was potential and the clubs eagerness to be successful to be more then they are now. Those where things I found at two clubs, both clubs with a illustrious history in Dutch football. The first one was RBC, a former professional club that went bankrupt in 2011 and had to start at the bottom of the football pyramid and who after getting promoted from the 5e klasse last year and this season failed to get promoted to the
3e klasse (8th tier). The other one was Koninklijke Haagsche Cricket en Voetbal Vereeniging or HVV for short, one of the oldest clubs in the Netherlands and besides the traditional top three clubs Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV the only club to me allowed to wear a star on their uniform for being champions 10 times or more. They where champions between 1891 and 1914 and also won the KNVB beker once in 1903. They are now playing in the 2e klassen, the 7th tier in the Netherlands and are overshadowed by the other club from Den Hague, Ado den Hague who play in the top tier, the Eredivisie.

RBC had fired headcoach Martijn van Galen after finishing second in the competition and failing to win the playoff and get promoted. I talked to interim coach Danny Mathijssen who was a former professional footballer and player of RBC and there was a real will to get the club back to where they where. They stilled played at Herstaco Stadion, the stadium they played at before they went bankrupt. HVV had fired Edmund Vriesde who had been headcoach for six years but this year almost got the club demoted. They played at portpark De Diepput where they have been playing almost since their where founded in 1898. After professional football was introduced the club they choose not to become professional and since then played in the lower leagues of Dutch football.

Although both offers where tempting my mind was made up the second I got the offer from HVV, although not a big club but a club with a huge history and a club which such a history in Dutch football deserves to be playing at a much higher level. It would be a challenge but from what I was told and promised by the club they would do anything to make this happen. I had a good feeling about this and the next day of accepting the offer by HVV I was signing a contract as head coach of the club. They also promised me to find my UEFA A license, I only had a UEFA B license and if we got promoted which was what I had promised the board a UEFA B license would not be enough to coach at the 1e Klasse level. I was happy to have signed and was looking forward to the start of the season.

Besides at club level football I had also dipped my toe into international football as a (former) Gibraltar International I was very much so on the radar of the Gibraltar FA after being allowed as a UEFA member they needed coached and they asked me, somebody who they perceive as a young talented Gibraltarian coach to to coach the Gibraltar under 17 team. I accepted the offer, I knew it would not be easy because the level of players was dreadful. In the 2014 UEFA European Under-17 Championship qualifying round where where thrown in a group with England under 17, Ireland under 17 and Armenia under 17 and we lost all games. The next year with Schotland, Ireland and Faroe Islands we managed to only get one point for drawing with Faroe Islands and in the UEFA European Under-17 Championship qualification we lost even against Liechtenstein and also against Croatia and Czech Republic. Somehow somebody of Solomon Island had seen me coaching and was impressed even though I lost all games with Gibraltar and only had 1 draw. The Solomon Island offered me a job as coach of their under 20 team including the Oceania Under 20 Championship. It would mean a lot of traveling with 21 hours flight to Brisbane and a 6 hours flight from there to Solomon Island and it would mean I would miss the start of the competition with HVV but after talking to the chairman they where gracelessly ok with it so I accepted.

Suddenly I had two jobs, both not paying but even so. I was the head coach of HVV in the 2e Klasse in the Netherlands and coach of Solomon Island under 20 team. It would be exciting times for me in the upcoming months.

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HVV – Return to former glory – Episode 1 – Prelude

One thing I like to do is tell strangers about my football career and the football clubs I have played for. The list of clubs that I played for is pretty amazing with clubs like Atalanta, Lecce, Sevilla, Auxerre, Werder Bremen, Rosenborg, and Ajax my career sounds like somebody who had a pretty good career as a football professional but in fact while the clubs I played for are big names in football my career was not as successful as you might think it was. When I tell my story to people, especially people who think themselves as experts on the field of football you can see it in their eyes that they are trying to figure out who I actually am. A person with a list of clubs as me should be a known player but with the exception of a few rare cases, people never know who I actually am and are too embarrassed to ask who I am.

I will introduce myself, my name I Giancarlo Ponticorvo, I was born in Belluno where at a young age I started playing at youth team level at the local football club A.C. Belluno 1905 who were just promoted from Prima Categoria Venetia to Promozione Venetia. After a year of playing football, I was scouted by Lecce who wanted me in their youth system, they saw me as a big prospect for the future and my parents as supportive as they were moved with me to the other side of the country to Lecce. I went through all the youth teams at Lecce from Piccoli Amici (Under 8) to Primavera (under 19) team. We had a good team with players like Graziano Pellè who ended up being the only one with a really worthwhile career. We ended up as champions of the Campionato Primavera, we won the Coppa Italia Primavera and the Supercoppa Primavera a couple of times. Although I shared in the joy of winning my share in achieving these cups were at best limited due to injuries having a team that worked like a well-oiled team and the coach did not want to tinker with it. a couple of months before my contract ran out I was told to come to the office of the coach, I was told that I was deemed not good enough for the first team and that wouldn’t be given a new contract.

After many trials and going from club to club and even outside of Italy. Through a friend, I was told about Sevilla who were starting a C team which started at the bottom of the league pyramid and that I should knock on their door for a trial as I did. At age nineteen most of the players of that team where youth players around my age who were not deemed good enough for the first team or B team of Sevilla or needed more time to mature. We started in the Segunda categoría, the 8th tier of Spanish football. We played well and got promoted to the Primera categoría. Our team was way too good for the lower leagues of the Spanish football league system and we eased our way through them winning the Primera categoría and getting promoted to the Regional preferente quite easily. We worked out way up all the way up to the Tercera División and with the first team in La Liga, the B team in just being promoted to Segunda División and we were in the
Tercera División meant that Sevilla had three teams in the national football league. At the start of the 2007/2008, our first season in the Tercera División I was told I would be allowed to leave the club and that it probably would be better for me to look for another club.

After five years of playing in the C team of Sevilla, the search for a new club started yet again. I eventually landed at Auxerre where I was contracted as a player for the third team of Auxerre which played in the Championnat de France Amateur 2 Group F, the fifth tier in France. I stayed there for two years never really becoming any further than being a reserve most of the time. I moved on again moving again to a big club and again one of the lower team of said club. I started playing for the third team of SV Werder Bremen who played in the fifth tier in Germany, the Bremen-Liga. We did well in the competition, we were champions twice and in my third and final season, we were only third. We played in the Bremen-Liga and unless the second team got promoted we were unable to get promoted. Because of the lack of a challenge, I decided to leave Bremen and go looking for a new club again. For some reason, it seemed my destiny was to play for lower teams of major clubs, although ofcourse this was partially my own doing my accepting contract by such clubs. I got offered a contract by Rosenborg BK, their third team played in the 3. Divisjon, the fourth tier in Norway. I played well, the team did reasonably well being around the lower middle of the table but I could never get used to the cold weather in Norway so after two seasons I left the club.

During my time I had met Beau Molenaar a Dutch keeper, a former player of AZ and Almere City FC who now played for many different clubs in Norway. He now played for AFC a club in the Topklasse the 3rd tier in the Dutch football league system and he got me a trial at AFC which did not go well but through that trial, I got picked up by the amateur division of Ajax who played in Eerste Klasse the fifth tier in the Netherlands. The Ajax Amateurs were demoted a couple of seasons back and wanted to get promoted back to the Hoofdklasse. We had a strong team and played well my first season at Ajax and we became champions of the 1e Klasse A and got promoted to Hoofdklasse. The 2012/2013 season, our first season back in the Hoofdklasse went well, we ended up third in the competition and in our second season we did even better and up runner-up in our division and won the playoff and got promoted to the Topklasse. This did not last long, in our first season we ended up fourteenth out of the sixteen clubs and right away got demoted back to the Hoofdklasse. In my final year at Ajax and as a footballer we ended up midtable in the
Hoofdklasse. After the 2015/2016 season, I decided to hang up my boots and fully going to focus completely on my career as a football coach.

Besides my career as a player at clubs, I also dabbled in featuring in international football. At a young age, when I was still playing at Lecce I once was called up and came on the field as a substitute player for Italy under 15. That was the extend to my international career for Italy but not the extent of my international career. Due to my grandfather being partially Gibraltarian I was also eligible for play for their national team. Until 2013 Gibraltar was not in the FIFA or UEFA due to Spain claiming Gibraltar was theirs. As such the Gibraltar national team until 2013 did not play any officially recognized games. They played in the Wild Cup in 2006 an alternative world cup for countries and regions not accepted by the FIFA and UEFA we ended up losing the semi-final and winning the match for third place. We won the Island Games, a tournament between Islands in 2007 and fifth in 2011. We ended last in the Four Nations Tournament a competition between semi-professional nation teams of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Besides Gibraltar, I also played for the National team of Padania, an unofficial national which represent the north of Italy where I was born. We played the VIVA World Cup, an alternative world cup for non-FIFA countries and in in 2008, 2009 and 2010, we won the tournament. After this, we started participating with the ConIFA World Football Cup and ConIFA European Football Cup the successor of VIVA World Cup. in 2014 we got to the quarterfinal of the ConIFA World Football Cup and lost to later tournament winner County of Nice. In the 2015 ConIFA European Football Cup, we won the final against a County of Nice in the 2016
ConIFA World Football Cup we lost the semi-final to Panjab and the game for the third place we also lost losing Northern Cyprus.

All in all, although I did not have a big successful career I did have a full career at beautiful clubs which many footballs can only dream of. I did not end up rich and famous as some and as many dreams up but I am still happy with the career that I did have.

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HVV – Return to Former Glory – Introduction

Full Name: Haagse Voetbal Vereniging
Short name: HVV
Nickname: De Grote Haagsche

Founded: 1883
Ground: Sportpark De Diepput
Capacity: 1200

Owner: Koninklijke HC&VV
Chairman: Maurice de Bie
Manager: Giancarlo Ponticorvo

League: West2 2e Klasse B
Colors: Yellow and Black

Dutch Champions: (10) 1890–91, 1895–96, 1899–1900, 1900–01, 1901–02, 1902–03, 1904–05, 1906–07, 1909–10, 1913–14
Dutch Championship Runner Up: (1) 1896–97
KNVB Beker: (1) 1903
KNVB Beker Runner Up: (2) 1904, 1910,

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