This season we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of women’s soccer at KNVB. In the interview of this series, we look back with five pioneering protagonists and draw a picture of a decade. This is the fifth and final item: 2011 with Daniel van de Dong, part of the Golden Generation of Orange Lions.
These are exciting days for Van de Dong when the interview takes place. This is a countdown to the Champions League final. In four days he will face FC Barcelona at the Juventus Stadium in Turin with Olympique Lyonnais. “I hope I can play,” he says. “But I only attended two group training sessions. I wanted to see if I could make minutes.”
It will complete her life, especially if she succeeds. After all, the 30-year-old midfielder already became the European champion with the Orange Lions in 2017 and faced the United States in the World Cup final two years later (2-0 defeat).
The only dreams she still has are dreams. In fact, those are the things she still wants to fix. “Going to the World Cup final was a real dream, but once you get there, you want to win too. And two years later we lost to the United States again at the Olympics, which is a real shame. Without supporters. We could not go anywhere. Security checked the hotel’s sidewalk. I’m privileged to be an Olympian, but we really have to come back in two years to truly feel Olympic. “
Van de Dong is looking for the rest of his life near home. In 2012, he switched from VVV-Venlo to PSV / FC Eindhoven. He played at Eindhoven for three years, which is definitely a good step towards becoming Valkenswaardse. “But I never officially played for PSV, I always played extra FC Eindhoven. It only came when I left for Sweden. It’s a little more crushing, haha.”
Because it was her dream when she was a kid on the stage at Phillips Stadium. But it was an unattainable dream because at that time women could not go for PSV. He played his matches at SV Valkenswaard and later at UNA. Emotionally among the boys, it will make her stronger and better. Although she continues to excel, she is not one step ahead. “We played a match at PSV every year. Of course there were scouts too. Everyone except me could be scouts because I’m a girl. It’s definitely very unfair.”
Still, she did not hesitate to play in front of packed stadiums. “I wanted to become a professional footballer anyway. I never thought it would be possible in the Netherlands. I thought I should go to Germany or the United States. But I was happy to do that.”
The guys I played football with became guys. Of course I was only 1.60 meters
The arrival of Eredivisie women in 2007 changed everything. Van de Dong, who had already been allowed to train with FC Eindhoven’s B1 for a year, also got a chance. He moved to Willem II in 2008. “Beautiful, of course. Anyway, I was ready to play football with the girls. The guys I always play football with have become men. Of course I was only 1.60 meters,” he laughs.
Where PSV used to see players as heroes, now he sees female players as well. “I came to Willem II in Kirsten van de Wen’s group and thought, ‘She did everything I wanted her to do.’ The real dream she had always dreamed of playing with her on a team suddenly came to hand.
Get used to it
In the first years of Eredivisie women became acquainted with Van de Dong. “Of course I’m only sixteen when I went to Willem II. From training three times a week to training daily was great, especially since the level was so high. In the end we also played Eredivisie’s decision against AZ. In front of full stands, a fantastic experience.”
Women’s Eredivisie grew steadily, including a temporary expansion with Belgian clubs, and Van de Tong grew with it. She was rarely on the Orange team when Vera Pav invited her to the Dutch women’s team. On December 15, 2010, he made his debut under Roger Rainers in a friendly against Mexico.
The Orange Lions were in attendance and, above all, the team reached the semifinals of the European Championships in 2009, but the team is not as strong as it is now. “This is a generation of players who often worked next to football. They know it’s not coming to everyone. The team played with heart and great enthusiasm. It took us a long way.”
The rise of the team went with fluctuations. The European Championship in 2013 was disappointing with only one point from three matches. This was followed by the first qualifying match for the World Cup in Canada (2015). An absolute milestone. The Netherlands reached the eighth final and lost 2-1 to Japan.
Meanwhile, women’s football was professionalized in the Netherlands. More and more players became full-fledged professionals or went overseas. “It’s very important. It really allowed us to live for our game, and we became better and better. The team took great quality action.
Yet Van de Dong always felt the pressure. “Everything stands or falls with our performance. We only get the optimal focus if we do it right. And we need that focus to fill the grounds.”
In 2017, all the puzzle pieces fell into place. Under national coach Sarina Wyckman, the Orange Lions beat Denmark 4-2 in the final to win the European title at home. “It’s a big party. As we won our matches, the match started to get more and more lively. The grounds were full of orange supporters. This is what we always wanted. Coincidentally, we did not expect in advance. Of course, you will win the match.
The victory of the European Championship was a definite turning point for women’s football in the Netherlands. “Something has really changed. We’re very appreciative. We were suddenly identified on the street.”
Dream in the UK
Van de Tong, meanwhile, set foot abroad. He finished at Arsenal via Swedish Koperberg / Gothenburg. In England she lived her dream. “There have been great improvements in the Netherlands in recent years, but what I have experienced in the UK is really unprecedented. The facilities were great. Those fields … were not normal! I could not believe my eyes.”
The Dutch midfielder had his pinnacle. He won the FA Cup and WSL Cup at Arsenal, among other things, and became the champion in 2019. That same year he reached the final of the World Cup with the Orange Lions. This was proof that the Netherlands team was not a winning miracle. Despite not having a ‘home advantage’, the team competed with some of the best players internationally. The final place also provided the first ticket to the Olympics.
The match in Tokyo did not deliver the expected success. The Americans were very strong in the quarterfinals after the penalties. It fits perfectly with the ups and downs of women’s football.
European Championship in England
Says Van de Dong, who switched to Super Power Olympic Lyon last summer. Under new national coach Mark Parsons, the European Championship is set to begin in England. The Netherlands is a contender for victory, which seemed impossible ten years ago. “We can rely on our own strengths and be proud of playing football.
Slowly the young guard takes charge within the Dutch team. This is the third generation to co-star with Van de Dong. “The women who are breaking now have always dreamed of becoming a professional footballer in their own country and playing at the top level with the national team. They are no different. Previous generations have achieved that. I am proud of that. I was able to do my part too.”
Is everything already achieved or are there still steps to be taken? “We have had successes in the first place, but in general we can still make progress. I think every player at Eredivisie should be a full – time expert. Clubs should invest more in women’s football and not just at the forefront. 3. For example, they bring in players from abroad. , Can strengthen competition. “
Van de Dong says more training opportunities at eredivisie clubs will be a step forward. “For example, you can search for girls with PSV. I would have liked it in the past.”
“Explorer. Devoted travel specialist. Web expert. Organizer. Social media geek. Coffee enthusiast. Extreme troublemaker. Food trailblazer. Total bacon buff.”