More than seven years ago, Joëlle Witschge and Dave Bulthuis met at Café Bubbels on Leidseplein, Amsterdam.
After a year of living together, their paths separated. Now, after six months, the two are together again – and good together. The engaged couple who are now expecting their first child, speak for the first time in public about their love for each other, football and the future.
WORDS BY GABRIELA PETRALIA
Football has been an important part of your life from a young age. In what way has this affected your life, Joëlle?
Joëlle: ‘My youth can’t be compared to that of my friends. I have consciously experienced the football career of my father (Richard Witschge, ed.) From beginning to end. Because he played with Barcelona at the time, I was born there. Then we often moved. Until I was fourteen, I lived in Japan, the final destination of my father’s career.
The nice thing is that I, therefore, speak several languages, but you can hardly call it a normal life. It was one big adventure, but at the time I missed the rest of my family very much.’
Dave, you currently play at SC Heerenveen. How do you combine your love of football with your love for Joëlle?
Dave: ‘Fortunately, this isn’t difficult because Joëlle grew up with football himself. She is present at every match, away and at home, so I do not have to miss her much. I also love to go home after a workout to eat together and simply be together. ‘
Going home and away – dedication!
Joëlle: ‘Of course I grew up with the game and like to watch it, especially when Dave plays. This makes me feel more involved with his work. When he comes home after the game, he also wants to know what I think. But honestly, if Dave does not play, I wouldn’t go to a game anytime soon.’
‘IN THE FOOTBALL WORLD EVERYONE HAS AN OPINION – ESPECIALLY IN THE NETHERLANDS’
You are both in the spotlight. How do you deal with negativity?
Dave: ‘Of course, no one is ready for that, but as time goes by, your skin becomes thicker and you care less about what people say. Everyone in the world of football has an opinion – especially in the Netherlands.’
Joëlle: ‘The same applies to me. At a young age, I had enough on my plate. In the beginning I was very busy and I only saw the negative things. Now I realise that the negativity has usually blown over the next day. As long as I myself know how it is and stay nice to others, I do not worry. ‘
The theme of our magazine is 5 senses this time. Which sense is central to your relationship?
Dave (resolutely but with a laugh): ‘Feel. It feels good to cuddle.’
Joëlle: ‘We do indeed feel good to each other. This is, I think, because we are very similar – we like the same things and both have a quiet character.’
Joëlle, you were recently proposed to. How did it happen?!
Joëlle: ‘My grandfather and grandmother have a party cellar, an imitation Amsterdam pub. Because there had been no parties there for a long time, I decided to celebrate my birthday there. I was very busy with the preparations and became increasingly grumpy that Dave was not helping. He was also often away from home. Eventually, I found out why… he was busy with his own preparations.’
Dave: ‘And then that dude was suddenly on his knees.’
A girl’s dream come true?
Joëlle: ‘Yes! I knew two things in life, for sure: that I one day wanted to get married and that I wanted to become a mother. The latter is unfortunately not for everyone. I have always been told that I only had a one per cent chance of getting pregnant. So it is really a wonder that it has happened!
‘I have come together with the right man at the right time, that’s how it feels. In retrospect, it appears that Dave asked my father for the hand of his daughter exactly on the first day of my pregnancy! This is very bizarre because neither of us knew anything at all.’
Dave: ‘In the summer of 2020 the time has come, the wedding. Probably in Italy.’
What is the most important thing that you want to give to your child?
Joëlle: ‘Honesty, and that hard work is rewarded. My parents gave me that, too. Sometimes I see young people around me who have never worked one day. In my youth I had all sorts of jobs, I worked in Chinese restaurants, and I also delivered mail.’
Dave: ‘That’s how I think about it. I think discipline is important; my child needs to know what the norms and values are in life. Nothing comes naturally, you have to work hard to achieve something.’