Editor’s Bureau Washington
Editor’s Bureau Washington
The doors to the locker room on the University of Pittsburgh sports complex open. Coming out with the other keepers “Cool, huh?” says Joe van der Sar. “Sometimes it’s so cold that the ice breaks when you go out on the field with your studs.”
The keeper begins one of the last training sessions before Saturday’s crucial game. Not the USA against the Netherlands, but the quarterfinals of the College Football Championship.
Edwin van der Sar’s son finished last year at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania through Ajax, ATO Den Haag and RKC Youth. In addition to his bachelor’s degree in economics, he was the starting goalkeeper for the university’s soccer team, the Pittsburgh Panthers.
It’s been a special week for van der Sar, with the eighth final between the Netherlands and the USA at the World Cup in Qatar. “My teammates are already driving me a little crazy,” he says. “I hope the Netherlands win, otherwise I’ll be stuck with some annoying Americans for the next few weeks.”
He was not surprised that the USA finished in the last sixteen in Qatar. “The team looks very fresh and sharp.”
The U.S. has excelled in women’s soccer for years, but men’s soccer has also grown strongly in recent years. At the university level, considerable investment is being made in football courses and it is paying off. “You can see it growing,” says van der Sar. “Four and a half years ago, for example, there was no interest in football at this university, now it is very much alive.”
What helps is that many American football players play in Europe. And the national team is doing well in the World Cup. Greater attention is paid to diversity within the national team.
College coach Jay Vidovich also sees more attention for American football. He said the sport is gaining popularity across the country. “Sometimes there are even 70,000 supporters in the stadiums. So it’s more. Important So part of the culture.”
American winner mentality
Vidovic is a big fan of Dutch football. According to van der Sar, he uses Dutch examples in his tactical discussions. The coach thinks it will be fantastic for the US to play against a big team like the Orange on Saturday.
Americans are not without opportunity, he thinks. “The U.S. always has a winner’s mentality. They’re ready to give it their all. It’s going to be a big challenge for both teams.”
Still, the World Cup tournament is not a priority for coach Vidovic. He hopes to beat the University of Portland on Saturday and reach the semifinals with his varsity team. “This is my world championship.”
According to van der Saar, the competition for university teams can be compared to the U23 competition in the Netherlands. This is the way to procrastination in America. But there is also a big difference: “In the Netherlands they may be more involved in football, but two thousand people will not turn up on a Monday evening to watch two ‘promise teams’.”
Van der Sar hopes to break through in American soccer. “The more football grows here, the more money is released,” he says. He says there are many opportunities to become a professional. “A former teammate from my university is now a regular in America’s highest level, Major League Soccer. It’s a good move.”
His home match kick-off is on Saturday after the Dutch national team match. He hopes to get something out of the fight in Qatar. “We’ve all seen the past games. The coach wants to keep us sharp, so I’m sure he won’t let that stop us this time.”
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