The first Dutch professional soccer player played in the American League
The Orange team is today playing the World Cup against the United States, the country of Gerrit Visser. He was the first Dutch professional footballer there.
Gerrit Visser in 1924 with an unknown woman. Photo from the KNVB collection through the National Archives
A hundred years ago, it was still forbidden in the Netherlands to earn money as a footballer. At that time, this was only possible abroad, which Gerrit Visser did. Nobody noticed.
Visser was born in Nieuwendam on February 2, 1903, when he was not yet part of Amsterdam. Since 1920 he played in IJmuiden for Stormvogels. Visser was a good player, because at the vanguard he made a strong impression even with the opponent. HFC fans heaved a deep sigh when their team played against him. “What a guy! In 1924, Visser even participated in the Paris Olympics with the Dutch national team.
At that time, our country had only amateur players. Visser therefore had to deal with his income in a different way and that is why he left for the United States in January 1926 as a representative of several fishing companies. “It will not be easy to find a suitable replacement,” lamented the Current. It wasn’t too bad, as his place was immediately taken over by JFH Asbeek Brusse.
Bethlehem Steel FC
Visser suspected he would have little time to play football in his new country at the moment, but it turned out to be different. After six months, he sent a letter to the Netherlands stating that he had joined Bethlehem Steel FC, playing in the American Football League, the country’s first serious professional football league.
First, a league in the east of the country was created, after which the champion faced the winner of the western league. The standard of play was high in Visser’s League, where ninety percent of the players came from Scotland. Visser averaged nearly two goals per game. In his own words, he had grown tremendously as a player in America.
In the United States, professional players have been admitted to clubs. In fact, anyone who wanted to remain an amateur had to declare this explicitly in advance. Visser never said that he made use of this exceptional position, with which he became the first test football player in the Netherlands. The Dutch Football Association doesn’t care anymore, as he had long since disappeared across the ocean. It didn’t matter that he was back on Dutch soil for a while in 1926, as his return home was very short.
In 1927, the wedding between Visser and Aafje Komin took place in Velsen, without the football player himself being present. He was in Detroit, where he now played for local Holley Carburetor FC. Visser lost the final of the American Cup tournament with this club 7-0. A zeperd, but it’s still a very remarkable achievement that someone from Nieuwendam has made it this far in football in the United States.
Visser retired from his sport in 1931. “I played football in America for six years,” he said, “but I can say without a doubt that I spent the nicer with the Stormbirds.”
He died March 3, 1984 in Cashmere, Washington.
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