Behind the scenes at ADO Den Haag
Press officer; Nathalie Nuiten
Nathalie Nuiten has been the press officer at ADO Den Haag since 2008. The thirty three year old has found herself in her dream job.
“I think my father would have preferred to have had a son, rather than a daughter, but as it happened, I grew up loving sport and watching everything with my dad. I was learning many sports and their rules which my dad loved.”
Nathalie enjoyed playing sports and was a natural at tennis. She was enjoying watching and playing sport as often as she could. Her studies did not suffer due to her love of all things sporty; in fact it guided her to a career.
“I knew I wanted to work in sports at quite a young age, after a search of the options it became sports journalism. I also knew I did not want to do the type of journalist that can destroy people’s lives as wellor boost their egos. I loved writing and travelling, so the idea of sports journalism was an easy option to follow. I set my targets and went for it. I never planned on football being the major part of it, it was just a coincidence, at that time it also could have been another sports as specialisation.”
Nathalie studied journalism at the Academy of Journalistiek en Voorlichting (Journalism and Information) in Tilburg and was really enjoying her time there. In her final year she was sent as an intern to the ELF football magazine to work. This proved to be the opportunity anybody would dream of, as even before her internship had finished she was offered a full-time job when her studies were finished. She started at the news desk and went on to become the one who followed the Dutch national team everywhere. The ELF magazine kept her busy as not only was it a neutral football magazine, but also made match day magazines for many of the big clubs. As Nathalie lived in The Hague eventually all things ADO related were passed onto her, publications, match day programmes etc, everything went via Nathalie. This was how her love for the club grew. Odd considering none of her family and friends had any interest in ADO and were living in the South of the Netherlands.
Nathalie at this time was also passing up her free time on a Friday night for seven years, missing partying with her friends, instead working late with Glenn Duijzer, the ADO archivist, entering all the data possible to keep all records up to date for Elf Magazine. She laughed as she remembered how much fun those Friday nights were.
Nathalie eventually left ELF magazine when she was offered the chief editors post at a new magazine covering amateur football (this magazine no longer exists.) She only stayed until the end of the trial period and decided to leave as she thought the new venture was not going in the right direction. She was not out of work for long as she was hired by the national hockey magazine, a job that gave her many opportunities to travel the world. It was a job she enjoyed immensely. The magazine was passed on and so Nathalie found herself out of work and soon back in the world of football working for the KNVB (Dutch football association).
“I was working there for around three months, doing their website etc when out of the blue I got a call from Glenn Duijzer. He asked me if I knew who was leaving ADO. Then he said that my ex boss, the press officer, was leaving and that there was now a vacancy. I wanted that job, it was my dream job and I went for it.”
Nathalie was hired within the week as everybody at ADO already knew who she was and what her work was like. Then she had to go to what many would consider to be a dream job at KNVB and tell them she was leaving for her dream job at ADO. They accepted her decision and wished her well.
At the start of her ADO press career Nathalie was a bit overawed by some of the big names she now had to deal with: Dutch footballing legends whom she once idolized were now to be dealt with on a regular basis. She found it astonishing that these top managers and players were treating her as an equal and were respecting her work and professionalism.
“I can remember when Louis van Gaal first came here with AZ and was under pressure by the press. At the after match press conference one reporter grilled him constantly on one issue. After one question too many I decided to put a stop to it and said that we had exhausted this subject so could we please move on. After the meeting was over, he took me aside and thanked me for my help and thoughtfulness. This from someone I was a big fan of and he was now praising my work. This happened on a couple of times in my first few months. The same happened again when we drew with Ajax, Marco van Basten was being repeatedly asked one question, I had to tell the press to change the questions otherwise the conference would be over. Again I was given a warm thanks of gratitude.”
Nathalie was soon settled in and started to do things her way. Most photographers like the managers to sit together after the match for good pictures, but many press officers sit between them. Nathalie, she was not that vain and decided to sit to the side which made her and the photographers and camera people very happy.
In a male dominated world Nathalie has become very well respected. The players at ADO welcomed a new player a few years back, Kevin Visser. His new team mates told him not to worry about Nathalie being a woman, that she is just one of the guys. This was a true mark of their esteem for Nathalie. Now this season she is for the first time older than all of the playing staff. She says she feels like a mother figure now and some of the younger players treat her that way too, asking advice on all matters, not just football related.
Being in her position, Nathalie has seen many ups and downs at the club since she has been there. Some have been amazing and others have put her under pressure and left her feeling upset.
“The greatest highlight for me was the play-off win at FC Groningen when we qualified for the EuropaLeague. On the journey to the stadium I was thinking was the 5-1 lead from the first leg enough? Stupid doubts I know, but niggling ones. As the match progressed the goals started to go against us and at the final whistle is was 5-1 to FC Groningen. The fact that Piquet had been sent off at the end of normal time meant we had to play extra time with only ten men. Our players were amazing and held out for the penalty shoot out. When the final penalty was taken and we were through, emotions just took me over. I was crying with happiness, I lost myself for a moment and couldn’t organize anything for the media. I just told them to go and grab whoever they wanted. I was kissed and hugged by all the players and staff and was swept along with it all.
Once I had recomposed myself I realized there were ten thousand fans waiting for the team back at the Kyocera stadium. I had to race back ahead of the team to sort all the press arrangements before the team bus returned. It was a mad dash, but I managed to sort it all out. My only regret of the day was that I had to work long after the celebration had started and felt a bit left out as I was the only sober one there when I walked in. However, it was a spectacular day, one I will never forget.
My worst time here was when there was a court case involving one of our former managers who had been sacked and was trying to sue the club for unfair dismissal. I found that tough, especially because during the case he tried to blame me for an interview he gave which was very bad for the club. After it was all over we have put it behind us both and when we see each other now it is ok, but at that time I felt awful and couldn’t imagine someone would do something like this. But like in any business, it is tough and people will always choose for their selves.”
Dealing with the fans has had its headaches at times for Nathalie. Due to previous problems within ADO’s fan history, there had become a level of distrust between the support and the club.
“There was a time that Eredivisie Live wanted to put some microphones behind the goals so they could hear what the goalkeepers were shouting, to add more atmosphere to their coverage. However the fans were convinced that those microphones were there to spy on them for the club and the authorities. It took me several weeks to convince them that they had nothing to do with any kind of outside influence of the police etc. Since then many fans have got to know me. I can hear my name being shouted at training, I look around, I do not recognize them, but they are starting to recognize me and know what I do. Some of the fans are really helpful to me at times and I do my best to help them out where and when I can.”
Not only does Nathalie have to deal with official press requests, but ADO Den Haag also has numerous fan run websites. This adds more to her work load, but she believes they are a valuable asset to the club.
“When I first started this job, the fans sites were kept at arms length by the previous press team. At one open day I bumped into Alberto who now runs the ADO Journaal website. We spoke and he told me that nobody from any fan site could get access to the players, to interview them etc. I thought this was a bit unfair so I spoke to the playing and coaching staff and it was decided we would allow these sites access to see what happened. This has been proven to have been a great decision. The fan sites do so much for us. They ask the questions the fans want to ask. It seems to have gotten the club and the fan base much closer together.”
I would just like to thank Nathalie for allowing me the time to interview her in her own free time.