I met Marcel Valk before he took charge of a training session of the ladies team on a cold and windy afternoon. We sat in his thankfully warm office and firstly got over his shock that I was going to interview him in English, a shock to him, but he was ok with it and was eager to answer my questions.
Marcel is the 44 year assistant trainer of the ADO ladies football team, which presently sits at the top of the Dutch ladies league. His career has taken him from Amateur football, to playing Champions League football. He then went into training, firstly with coaching the men before being approached by ADO to help coach the ladies. Here is his story in his own words.
I started at ADO in 1989 but began first with the amateur team UVS Leiden. Co Adriaanse was the man who scouted me and signed me for ADO. I played three years for ADO before I went to RKC Waalwijk, then onto Go Ahead Eagles from Deventer; from there I went to Volendam before ending at Willem II.
The move to Willem II was the best for me as in my first year we were playing in the UEFA cup, and then in the second year we finished second in the Eredivisie and so then played in the Champions League. It was a very nice experience for me. We played Spartak Moscow in a large stadium that was half full and still had 50,000 people in it, that was very nice. We also played Sparta Prague and Bordeaux, very nice stadiums with a nice atmosphere in them. We only got two points, drawing 1-1 in Moscow and 0-0 at home to Bordeaux. Moscow was a good team and we stopped them going further in the competition with our draw there. It was a difficult competition for us, but a great experience.
After my time at Willem II, I was hired again by ADO for six months before I stopped my professional playing career. I went to AGOVV of Apeldoorn; they were trying to get promoted into the Jupiler league (Second division) and were hiring many ex professional players. It was a good time to be there. They got their promotion and at 35 I thought it best that I retired from football.
I did nothing with football for three years until Willem II contacted me about becoming a trainer. I already had the papers needed to be able to do this. So I went back to the club as a trainer for three years. Then I got a message from ADO asking me to become assistant trainer to their ladies team. This was very nice for me as at that time Lex Shoenmaker was in charge and now it is Sarina Wiegman-Glotzbach who is head trainer. So that is the short story of my career up till now.
I find the ladies are more fanatical about their training than the men. I think they do this because unlike the men, they get nothing for this, but train very very hard. With the men there is a lot more pwer an co-ordination, so we have to train differently. The ladies though play with the heart and train with the heart. My experience with these ladies is that they train harder than the men, which is good for me to see and I enjoy that. When the men at Willem II got relegated, the men gave up and did not really want to train; the ladies at ADO always want to train. So now I enjoy working with a team that enjoy working hard.
Our ladies team have finished second now three times in a row and so now we train differently to try to win the ladies league. With our players pushing forward, we have to train our defenders harder now. We work on their positional play and have lots of training games were we attack our defenders a lot to put them under pressure. We spend a lot of hours doing this; I look at it like ice hockey training, always putting pressure on your opponent. We are now scoring a lot of goals and conceding not very many. We have a great group of twenty ladies here now. They are all friends off the pitch, but on the training pitch they have to show aggression, and if they do not work hard, then the player will sit on the bench.
The ladies are not professionals but we still have them training five days a week. Monday to Thursday on the training pitches and Friday there is usually a game and then on the Saturday they do power training at home. They do work very hard for this club.
Hopefully this year we can win the title and if that happens, we would be in the ladies Champions league, only the title winners go into this competition. This would be very special for me and the team to be a part of this tournament.
Every year we have an open day at training for ladies who wish to demonstrate their skills and show us what they can offer us. We also look at other amateur clubs and we have our own satellite amateur team at Sassenheim called Ter Leede, many of our squad have come from their. They have a good set up at that club. We get lots of ladies contacting us about playing for us, but many don’t think playing ladies football is hard until they come to see us or join us train, most do not stay for long.
The ladies are loving to play their home matches in the Kyocera stadion. There is a lot of noise coming from the fans making it enjoyable for them to play there. The crowd really get behind the team and the ladies are very happy with it. The support for ADO ladies is very good, as at away games crowds are usually about one or two hundred only, so when ADO has over a thousand, it makes them play harder and with passion. The Hague is the best supported ladies club in Holland. AZ once had a game against Willem II ladies when a crowd of five thousand was there, but that was for the title, normally they have five hundred fans at games.
We have a small group of followers who go everywhere with us and even watch us train. Once when we played in Belgium they all came and waved a big flag. Most people think they are great, but crazy. We always like to see them on our trips away from home.
Now this season, I hope, we believe, we can beat FC Twente to the title. The ladies here are strong and are playing and training hard. They deserve a title win. FC Twente are a very strong team, but we think this season we are stronger. It has to happen this year, if not, I think it will be very difficult.
I am now looking forward to European football with the ladies, as that would be a great experience for them and also for me. It would mean I have reached Champions League football as a player, and now could be there as a trainer of a ladies team, this would be so great for me and all the ladies involved from the players to the staff.
So now I am very happy and very settled here. I enjoy my work and I very much like the people who I am working with. It is a pleasure for me to find myself in this position in football. I am a lucky man I know that.
I wish to thank Marcel for his time and allowing me to talk to him about his time in football. It was a true pleasure and an honour for me to meet him, a real gentleman.