Holland is known to produce talented and highly skilled football players who are considered to be among the world’s best. Indeed, the Netherlands isn’t just known for beautiful tulips, picturesque windmills, wooden clogs and a vibrant nightlife. Despite the country’s smaller size compared to rival nations in the world of football, it does have some of the biggest names in the sport.
Top football players from Holland include Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Rafael van der Vaart, as well as legends Marco van Basten, Johan Cruijff and Dennis Bergkamp. Sports analysts say that one of the main reasons the country produces so many talented football players is that it has a well-organised youth football programme, one which other countries can learn from. Let’s take a closer look at youth football in Holland and see what makes it special.
Youth football in the Netherlands
Football is the No, 1 sport in Holland. The country has a total of 36 professional football clubs and nearly 3,000 amateur clubs, all of which are based all over the country. Of the 1.2 million members of the KNVB or the Royal Netherlands Football Association, 480,000 are youths.
Youth players play domestic football in the Top Class and Head Class, and above these classes are the Eredivisie and Eerste Divisie, where players enjoy football at their own level. Until they turn 14 years old, players from professional clubs play against teams from amateur clubs – unheard of in countries such as England. Young players can join organised club football as soon as they turn 5 years of age, with coaching sessions described to be fun and focused on enjoyment rather than winning.
The Dutch government has made a big investment in its facilities for football players of all ages. The facilities always include floodlit playing fields, from grass to artificial turf pitches. There are hot showers, warm changing rooms, ample parking, medical centres and spacious clubhouses. Volunteers see to the facilities’ daily maintenance, and clubs get money from membership costs, sponsors as well as selling food and beverages in the clubhouses. Players of all ages are well taken care of.
Girls play football too!
In the Netherlands, the KNVB encourages girls to play in teams, even if it’s a “boys’ team” because players, no matter their gender, learn more. Older female youths can choose to join the ladies’ team because of differences in physical prowess, but it’s not a big deal. You can say that youth players in Holland are lucky to have an excellent training system – boys and girls are given the opportunity to enjoy football as much as they want and develop as players and individuals.
The Dutch way
The Netherlands believes youth development requires careful planning and long-term goals, which is why youth players are integrated into the nationwide player development programme right from the beginning and receive the best training from experienced coaches. Holland knows that going for instant results isn’t the way to go, so it instead focuses on the long-term development of young players early on.
Youth football players in Holland don’t put winning first – they focus on developing skills and sportsmanship. For Holland, it’s not the end result of winning that’s important, but becoming great players.