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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