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A Gunner in the world cup final: Robin van Persie – the inside story.

By Walter Broeckx

When Robin Van Persie got his very bad injury last season when he played with Holland against Italy it was clear that he would miss the biggest part of the season for Arsenal. I then wrote that probably Robin would be fit for the world cup and have a big impact.

Well he is fit but his impact hasn’t been that big when you only look at goals scored. But you can see that he is growing in the last games and against Spain I think he could explode in that game. It is very similar to his beginning of last season when at first he mostly created goals for others with his movements and then suddenly started scoring himself. I think many people in Holland would love to see him repeating his strong start of last season for Arsenal but now for Holland.

As I have followed football in Holland a bit during the years I knew Robin Van Persie before he joined Arsenal. So I will just try to give a short summary of Robin’s live from the start.

Robin’s parents were both artists and it is fair to say that you can see this in his game. He always is trying to create things and do special things. So both parents will have some genetic influence on him and on his play. His parents divorced when he was still a very little boy and he was mostly raised by his father. He also did stay with his mother – but most of the time he was with his father. He also has two sisters.

When Robin was 5 years old, his father took him to the football club where his father was a youth coach. And from the moment the other coaches saw him play they knew they had a special kid. His first club was Excelsior Rotterdam, the third club in Rotterdam after Feyenoord and Sparta Rotterdam. He played there in the youth teams and when he was 13 years old Feyenoord came to get him.

And he made his debut in the season 2001-2002. A very successful season for Feyenoord and Robin at Feyenoord won the Uefa cup and was voted as talent of the season. But it was not all rosy and shining after that. Robin was not the kind of player who just did what the coaches told him to do. No, he was a very  confident young man, some say over confident, and he knew what he wanted. And he told the world what he wanted and told the coaches what he was thinking. This honesty that brought him many troubles in those first years.

I remember him in those first years at Feyenoord and you could see the talent but you could also see the rushes of blood to his head every now and then. Moments of brilliance mixed up with moments that you wondered what on earth is he doing out there. He got in a lot of trouble because of Robin always telling what he had in his mind. He played a very individual game in a team sport and was not the most popular guy with his coach in those days. And that coach was Bert Van Marwijck, the same coach that is taking Holland, with Robin Van Persie, to the finals of the world cup.

The problems they had in those days have been put aside. I remember Robin Van Persie once looking back at the situation and saying: “If we would have met in a later stage of our careers it would have been different. It was his first time at a (Dutch) top club and it was difficult for him and  I was young and impulsive so we both had a difficult time”. The problems have been set aside so it seems and under Van Marwijk now Robin has been one of the most important players in the Dutch team.

When I look  back at those days Robin looked like an angry young man. Wanting to take on the whole world at once and not willing to wait. He wanted to do it in his way, on his terms. When I looked at him in those days I had the feeling that he was one of those players that were at an important cross roads in life: talented but like some other brilliant players something was missing and he could risk of ending with a team in the lower leagues just because of his character. He didn’t make any progress in the next years at Feyenoord.

At first there was the rumour that he was wanted by PSV. I thought this to be okay for him as it would be a step forward to another big club in Holland and a new environment. And then suddenly out of the blue the rumour came out that Wenger wanted him to come to Arsenal. Now this was something for me. A player from the team I had a soft spot for in Holland coming to Arsenal my favourite team. A player I liked a lot for his talent.

But then I have to admit that my first thought was totally wrong. The way I knew Robin, from a distance off course, I thought that he would never make it at Arsenal. In my mind I saw him arguing with Wenger, with Rice, with Vieira, with Henry, with the groundsman, with the coffee lady…  I was convinced of his talent on the field but I really thought he would only run with his head against the wall and kill his own career.

But luckily Robin proved me wrong. I have seen the angry young man turn in to the footballer he has become in the last seasons. His skill, his technique, his vision on the field and the eye for a team mate has grown.

Also as a human being he has changed. The impatient and always arguing person he looked has now gone and a very relaxed and mature person has come to the surface. In the Dutch language we have an idiom that goes (translated) like this “the understanding comes with age” and this certainly is the case for Robin. So Robin has changed since his arrival at Arsenal and I really wonder how much this has to do with Wenger. I really wonder what Wenger did to turn that “kicking against everybody’s legs angry young man from Rotterdam” in to the player he is today.

On Sunday we will see what will happen. If Holland wins the world cup it would be the first time in modern history that a small sized country wins the world cup. Will Robin be the man who makes history on Sunday? As an Arsenal fan and a long time admirer of Robin Van Persie I really hope he puts himself and Holland in the history books.

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21 comments to A Gunner in the world cup final: Robin van Persie – the inside story.

  • Scotty RSA

    lets hope RVP lifts the trophy ijury free instead of Cesc purely cuase i hate Barca an half the spainish team is from there

  • then, lets hope that Barca doesn’t win the world cup.

  • walter

    I must say that the sympathy that a lot of Gooners had, also over here in the low countries, has totaly gone since the behaviour of the Barcelona players started. We still can admit that Barcelona play nice and good and attractive football but for the rest most of them hope that Mourinho sends them home empty handed next season.
    And even I who dislike Mourinho for his kind of football and behaviour can only hope the same. You can say that Barcelona and many of their players ‘hebben in mijn rapen gescheten” and I am going to leave this untranslated but I can tell you that it is a popular (but a bit foul mouthed) expression where I live to tell that they have done something wrong.

    And for the rest I think it would be nice for Robin to win it and Cesc has already won the European title 2 years ago so better to have to players in the team who have won things.

    And as a member of the Benelux supportersclub it is only fair from me to support the Dutch half of our club. Which isn’t a problem really for me because whenever Belgium plays Holland I support Holland. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was born only a few hundred meters from the border with Holland?

  • Gooneraside

    Nice article, Walter.

    Robin has become one of my favourite players at The Arsenal, successfully replacing one of my favourite ex-players.
    I have heard rumours of a nefarious past event which was hushed up by cash, to which I always said “F**k off and don’t believe all you read in the papers” and hopefully belief in that has since died (enough said).
    As you say, Robin seems to become a little fiery – at least, on the field. Maybe his parents should have explained that nothing is as bad as it’s painted. 😉
    What I do believe is that Robin does now have The Arsenal DNA in his veins and will serve the club to his utmost.
    Long may he do so.

  • gooner80

    I think Bergkamp had a big influence on RVP, They are very similar obviously Dennis was better but I like RVP never going on about some dream to play for some spanish club.He still has many years ahead of him to improve more. He just gets injured too much.

    if you look back on some of the breath taking goals he has scored that volley against charlton is one of my all time favourite goals by any player

    Its the dutch defence that worries me, the good thing is that the spanish have created very little the dutch have been very lucky I hope their luck holds out,I dont want spain to win

  • Adam

    For me RVP is ARSENALS BEST PLAYER he could do cescs job with one hand behind tied his back plus an eye patch. I wonder if cesc could do RVPs job. Just my opinion though.

  • Dark Prince

    I’m supporting Spain. And its got nothing to do with barcelona. I just feel Spain played really well, even better than Netherlands this World Cup. They were persistent with their efforts. And eventually it paid off. I hope Cesc Fabregas plays a role in the final. But whatever the result, it has been a very superb World cup for Arsenal.

  • Bart

    I’m really surprised that Barcelona is now less popular in Holland; when I still lived there it used to be everyone’s favourite club outside Holland, partly due to the Cruyff link.

    I personally think that V Persie does have a very big impact on the Dutch team, not so much through scoring goals himself but through his selfless play for others + he is a total pest for the opponent’s defense. I don’t think Schneider would be joint top scorer without Robin in the team.

    Didn’t Cruyff say a few years ago that Robin was more talented than Robben?

    Hup Holland Hup

  • Vivek sharma

    If RVP has not scored much goals its main reason is the selfishness of Robben and Sneijder. You must have noticed in final stages of uruguay game,when on counter attack Robben tried to chip the ball into the net instead of passing it to the unmarked van persie. I would really like to see what Robben Sneijder does with huntelaar in team instead of RVP. Anyways i am really looking forward to final and hope robin scores in final.

  • Bart, I think Barca has gone down the list of favourite clubs since the new President removed Cruyff’s President for Life (or something like that) award.

  • Hartwick89

    Walter,

    A great insiders view to Van-Persie. I too have been watching his progress. Not from Holland though. I remember it was Van Persie’s shot last minute against either Sunderland, Stoke? From an impossible angle from the right corner flank that stunned me. But, then he had some words for Wenger at some stages and he found himself watching. I give credit to both Wenger and RVP for his amazing road.
    On another note, I watch Holland with a little disdain these days because you can see the lack of cohesiveness between Robben, Sneijder, & RVP. And, it is not because of RVP… The other two just urk me. RVP has been so patient and I will support them in the final but only because of RVP. As far as Spain goes….Shame, shame, shame if they lose. Fabregas in the game against Paraguay subbed Torres and opened a little hole in that game playing out of positition. It was not until that ugly mole Alonso was subbed out did the game actually open up…. Spain you deserve to lose because you couldn’t win a poker game if you had all the aces in your hand!

  • Bart

    Tony, I had to do a bit of a Google, it appears Cruyff resigned as honorary president (after been given the tittle only in April this year by Laporta):

    “If after this first meeting of the new board I’m so important that there is nothing more important than this to be spoken about, I’d rather not be in the middle, it’s better. It seems I am a nuisance,” Cruyff said as quoted by AS.

    Rosell has since spoken and claimed that Cruyff had to resign as the role of honorary president did not exist at Camp Nou.

    There’s no doubt another side to the story but seems like a nice chap that mr Rosell, interesting times ahead.

  • walter

    That’s in short the story, Bart and when in Holland you touch Cruyff, you touch their heart as he was their best player ever and the man who made the Dutch believe in themselves as world class footballers.

  • Gooner Gal

    Walter,

    I came across this article that highlighted how Berkamp and Viera helped Van Persie. I can’t see those two along with Wenger being told anything by the young RVP.
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/article396465.ece

    I didn’t know that Cruff had resigned as honary Barca president.

    With regards to Holland it is evident to see that there is disharmony on the pitch, which has affected the quality of their football. This is why I am suprised that there haven’t been any clashes in the camp. RVP is clearly Holland’s best player at the moment even without scoring. Robben and Sneijder are incredibly selfish and make life hard for Holland as they seem to where possible only pass to each other.

    I hope RVP gets a goal in the final as he really deserves it. But it wouldn’t suprise me if Van Marwijk subbed him when they go a goal down, instead of taking off son-in-law Van Bommel who is increasingly becoming more reckless. I would play De Jong and Van De Vaart in mid field and this will help RVP lead Holland to glory.

  • Walter, Total Football in the Netherlands, opened my eyes to what was possible, and the fact that nothing then changed in English football afterwards made me feel we could never move forwards.

    It was when Wenger came along that I suddenly realised that those ideas from the Netherlands had not died but were simply slumbering along waiting for the right man to take the helm.

  • gooner80

    I have noticed that Tony,Wenger has copied the dutch way quiet alot even down to the famous Ajax academy

  • gooner80

    Good article Gooner Gal

    didnt realise RVP was a Gooner, the whole thing makes me miss Dennis, when I look at the plaudits some of these so called world class players get I don’t understand how Dennis was so underrated, that man was a genius, Im glad to see him coaching, one day he could be an arsenal manager.

    RVP is a bit wasted upfront by himself, IMO huntelaar and RVP would unlock the spanish defence,I have noticed RVP has taken a few free kicks one of them is going to go in soon

  • super sam super sam

    thanks alot for the article walter.

    i’d like to give gooner gal special thanks though as that article is just phenomenal.

    as a younger arsenal fan, that’s something i’ve never read, and was really intriguing. what hit me right in the gut was that last phrase.

    “We all thought we were at great clubs before: Barcelona, Marseille, Feyenoord. But this is the best club of all.”

    i have to say, Robin, Samir, and Cesc, are for me, heads and shoulders above any other player in arsenal.

    when i think about any of them leaving for “greener” pastures, it makes me sick. arsenal can be a revelation very, very soon. it’s only a matter of time and patience.

    i’d really like to see this team grow as one together

  • AaronGSi

    Total football will now hopefully start enjoying more of a renaissance, and about time too. Barca (love them or loath them) are now the benchmark that all the big clubs seem to be looking to, and with both Spain and Netherlands in this years WC finals too, this will continue to set the pattern for the type of football that will be demanded over the next few years.
    But it is no surprise that Barca are still following the template that was laid down by Cruyff in the early 90’s, as the football they played then was just awesome, and continued by Rijkaard (who is the real reason why Barca are where they are today). I suppose this is why 4-3-3 has become the formation of choice again as well (and variations of it such as 4-5-1 and 4-2-3-1).

    The only difference this has with the original Ajax formation is that today teams choose to play with a flat back four, whereas Ajax employed 3 across the back and a sweeper behind who would push into midfield when possible to make a 3-4-3. This 3-4-3 system was actually used by Chile in the WC and I’m sure people will agree that they were an absolute joy to watch – my team of the tournament by far. If they hadn’t have had a player sent off against Spain then it could have been them in Sundays final. (they were battering Spain in the first 30 minutes, it was brilliant but again the game was spoilt by the Ref and Spain got lucky to win the group).

    So total football does seems to be here again and here to stay for a good few years at least. It is therefore no surprise to see Arsene, being so dedicated to providing fast, technical, attacking, yet simple football, take his team down this route. He even responded last season to a question about them copying Barca, with the answer that he was not copying Barca, but simply using the system given by the Dutch that had been around for a long time.

  • Finsbury

    According to some Spanish press reports, Cruff senoir has thrown his support behind Spain, and ‘Spanish Football’.

    But, well, he would say that to a crowd of lemmings, sorry, hacks in Spain. His son was a Barca Brat…?

    Can we describe this upcoming WC Final as The Ajax Final?
    (In honour of the Ajax team of the early 1970’s, late 1960’s?)

    Anyway, the point is, that RVP probably feels like he has a little lesson he wants to give the Barca CB’s, an opportunity denied to him a few months ago,

    An Appendix to Arsenal Vs. FC BarceloanusaquickBobta, Chapter One.

    Hopefully the other Dutch forwards can remember some of that Totaal Football stuff, the bit about passing the football to someone who is vaguely in the CF position;
    Holland/NL/whatever the Lowland is called, may just have a chance!

    Yes, there were a few more Sp*ds in this WC. A scary number in the England squad (Did any last more than a game, in the end? That could make a good trivia question…). Maybe there were more Sp*ds in this WC then Gunners? Lord Lordy Lordy formerly of the FA, Garth ‘Crook’ Vader and friends, must have been delighted.

    Well, none made it to the final.

  • Finsbury

    That’d be Cruyff, and not Cruff!