“Wow, now it really begins”

Wieke Kaptein in Sydney.  ImageGetty Images

Wieke Kaptein in Sydney.ImageGetty Images

“No, I haven’t heard it myself,” laughs Wieke Kaptein when confronted with texts from national coach Andries Jonker. He said he had a smile on his face when he saw the young FC Twente midfielder at work. “My brothers joked about it,” said Kaptein, who is the youngest Dutch player to play in a World Cup squad. “It’s a very big honour, very special.”

Family and friends kept telling Kaptein that all would be well when she quickly became a stronghold in FC Twente’s midfield. Still, nerves raged in his body ahead of the announcement of the final selection. Also because she was sick when the Orange Lionesses started preparations for the World Cup in Zeist. “It was a very exciting week. My parents were already saying: enjoy it every day. I did that. You really train at world level and all the girls have trained so well, so I was nervous. But We always said: do your thing, do like FC Twente. I did that.”

Without a doubt

National coach Jonker had no doubts about the youngster’s selection. “We are careful with her, sometimes she is not allowed to train and she has to rest, but she is simply one of the best midfielders in our country. I am lucky in my career to meet many players who are very stable at a young age and who show every day that they can play football well She seems to belong to this special category I look at the quality, not the age She belongs to the Cup of the world.

And so Kaptein goes to New Zealand. A beautiful new chapter in her early career, after her debut at FC Twente at the age of 15 and last April with the Orange team against Poland, when she replaced Lieke Martens.

“Everything is so special. The weather in Sydney was also really cool. When I got on the plane, I also thought: wow, now it’s really going to start. Few people experience it. Kaptein normally watches Orange’s final tournaments traditionally at home, with his family. “On the sofa, with lots of orange flags.”

Idols and Teammates

Not so long ago, Kaptein was still cheering at home. She was eleven years old during the European title of Orange, and thirteen four years ago during the final of the World Cup against the United States. Now she is at the World Cup herself, with these players she admired so much. “Jackie Groenen, Jill Roord, Daniëlle van de Donk: they were my idols. But now I just see them as teammates. They are also very pleasant. They also don’t treat me like I’m seventeen, so I can be myself and train everyone,” says Kaptein, who keeps his eyes and ears open during training sessions. “I pay close attention to what they do. I’m mostly the same type of player as Danielle so she gives me a lot of advice. Really nice.”

Midfielder Groenen finds Kaptein’s development admirable. “She’s doing great, sober, fitting in well with the group, showing it on the pitch and she’s just a very nice girl. I see her growing every day so I really like her coming. She’s just a great talent.

It is clear that Kaptein has a bright future. But Jonker is not content to take him on to gain World Cup experience: “We are not a training team, we are a performance team. You have to be able to handle it and we think she can.

World Top

The young talent especially wants to play. “That’s what we are footballers for. You dream of playing the World Cup. But on the other hand, you also have to be realistic: this is my first final phase and the other midfielders are among the best in the world. If I have to go I will help the team, if not I will encourage from the bench and give all my energy to motivate the others. We are a team and want to improve each other. It is not the case that substitutions will knock down base players. I think we can go very far because of this, especially if you play football as well as we do.”

And the Kaptein family? He is traditionally seated with the orange flags in front of the tube. “I like him. It feels good that they’re safe at home and I can do my thing. But suppose we get to the semi-finals, they might come. That would be great. That seems to me too so cool to win a European Championship or a World Cup. It really feels like a dream.

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