(Taken from Issue 57 of Life After Football, available to buy here: https://lifeafterfootball.eu/shop)
WORDS BY DELANO LIMAHELUW, TRANSLATED BY GREG STANLEY
At a young age, Steven Bergwijn consciously made the choice to leave Ajax.
He switched to PSV and was welcomed with open arms in Eindhoven. His passion for football led to a long-term investment in his pro career. Steven (21) not only walked that way, but with great support from his parents and from his faith. With his breakthrough at PSV and debut as an international at senior level, the investment seems to be paying off.
What is your first football memory?
Steven: ‘I first came into contact with football when I was three or four years old. Normally you can only train at a club when you are five, but I remember that I had my first training when I was 4 years old. After that first training, at Waterwijk in Almere, I didn’t leave the game alone.”
When did you go to Ajax?
Steven: ‘After having played football at Waterwijk for three years, I went to Ajax’s youth academy. I noticed that it was all more serious there. I had no problem with that, because I’m used to giving everything. “
What was the difference between these two clubs?
Steven: ‘At Ajax, games had to be won. The importance of the competition was always central. ‘
Appie Nouri? I have not had such a click on the field with anyone else.
You joined the team with Abdelhak Nouri. According to youth trainers from that time you had a special connection?
Steven: ‘In the F’ I got to know Appie. I cannot explain why we immediately had a click on and off the field, but from the first moment it felt good between us.’
What made you so strong together?
Steven: ‘Appie was a fantastic player with beautiful technique. I enjoyed competing with him, from our connection, our actions and the teamwork. I have not had such a click on the field with anyone else. Even after I left Ajax we kept in contact every day. Fortunately, we were still playing together with the Oranje youth teams.’
Do you think he is proud of you?
Steven: ‘Certainly. The love for the ball, a passion that we shared together, has ensured that I always – right now – try to keep on going.’
How do you look back at your time at Ajax?
Steven: ‘As a young footballer at Ajax, you learn the basic techniques. I played there for six years and I learnt a lot in that time.”
And then you went to PSV, which is a bit further away from Almere than Amsterdam…
Steven: ‘After I signed, I was on the PSV training ground the next day. Then, I got up at half past six every morning to go to Eindhoven with my father. When I was training, my father slept in the car in the parking lot of De Herdgang. After the training we drove back to Almere, so I was back at school at half past eleven. And that’s how it went every day.”
What did you dream of then?
Steven: ‘At a young age, I dreamed of playing in big stadiums later on. This season that has also happened. We have played in some very nice matches in the Champions League. Especially the match against Inter Milan. There was a beautiful ambiance, a lot of atmosphere and a healthy pressure on the game. Inter had to win, we could not progress, but it felt great to play such a match. The Champions League is something different than the Eredivisie. The level is a few notches higher. But you also get used to it quickly. ‘
Meanwhile, you are now an international and important every week for PSV. Do you feel that you are on track regarding your career?
Steven: ‘It is nice to see that everything I have sacrificed for football is now paying off. I have always worked hard because I am very focused on my goal. I do everything I can to get better and get the maximum out of it, but I realise that I’m not in the game for a long time.’