For the next week, FC Cincinnati GM and President Jeff Berding will share his thoughts, activities and photos from his trip to Europe through a daily blog. Check back daily for new blog posts.
Friday was my first full day in the Netherlands after the trip over from London.
One of our FCC partners, Mike Mossel, picked me up at Amsterdam airport at 10 PM local time Thursday night after short flight from London. In fact, we were on ground longer than in air - stuck on plane for 45 minutes after we landed due to broken airport to plane connection. But finally I got into airport and was happy to see Mike. From Amsterdam in the northern part of The Netherlands, we had an over two-hour drive to the southern part near Belgium where Mike lives with his family. We made it to hotel after 12:30 am.
On Friday, I had an early start with a 7AM pick up. We had an itinerary set with visits and meetings with a few Dutch Premier League clubs.
First up was a visit to Dutch legendary club AJAX, home to Johan Cruijff one of best players ever in world. His philosophy and teachings are the foundation for the most successful academies and coaches in the world. At AJAX we toured their facilities - lots of soccer volleyball, an endurance track and a performance center. They even have a school building on site. We also met with coaches, including former players Aron Winter, the former head coach of Toronto FC who had 84 caps for National team, and Rob Witschge (with 30 caps). We discussed the FCC story and their Academy. They expressed interest to see how we do and offered to stay in touch. Since AJAX was the first Dutch club I knew of, I was pleased we started our day there.
Then we drove to Vitesse in Arnham. Vitesse is an ambitious club with a very strong philosophy of pressing soccer from youth to first team. We were welcomed by John Lammers, coach of the U-23s. As a player, John played in over 400 premier league matches with just under 200 goals. John was a very likable guy. He showed off all of their facilities and I noted some similar organization to the English clubs. We met some of their technical staff, including Edwin Petersen their Academy Director. Their use of cameras and measure in training at all levels was progressive. I was also impressed with their interest in U.S. Soccer and willingness to support our growth.
Then Mike and I traveled to PSV Eindoven to tour their training facilities. There we also were able to watch a U-15 training session. The dynamic movements of the players were fun to watch. Tomorrow night I will be traveling to watch their home match versus FC Twente.
From there we made our way back towards the southern part of the country for dinner with Gerhard Wermink, the assistant coach at FC Zwolle and formerly with FC Twente. Gerhard is a long time friend of Mike's and is a specialist in physical development and movements for soccer players. He has a very scientific approach to youth soccer and enhancing performance through innovation. We had a fascinating conversation over dinner. With the laptop out, Gerhard showed some intriguing soccer training and game observations. It was a fun evening.
Back at hotel I had time to get a workout in as Saturday was to be another early start to late ending. But the day was valuable and helped me appreciate some of the differences between Dutch and English soccer. The biggest difference was that there is a lot more money in English soccer. Consequently, Dutch soccer officials work to make up for less resources with their innovation and development philosophy.