Lost Talents and the power of perception

27 06 2011

Yesterday Jan van Beveren, a Dutch goalkeeper from the 1970s, died.

 

Van Beveren wasn’t any old goalkeeper from 1970s Holland, he was…

“……….the ultimate goalie, gracious and elegant. Athletic and stoic. Jan van Beveren was a gem to behold in the goal. Still, he’d never reap the fruits of his talent and the generation he was part of. Johan Cruyff, Piet Keizer, Willy van der Kuylen, Willem van Hanegem, Jan van Beveren…they’d never win a prize with Oranje…”

Have a look;

So why haven’t you or I heard of him properly? Why didn’t he reap the fruits of his talent? It seems to have something to do with the almighty Johan and it’s a very sad story;

The former Eindhoven-based club’s custodian had 32 international caps for the Netherlands, though he never took part in any World Cup or European Football Championship, reportedly because of a quarrel with Johan Cruyff, with whom he failed to see eye to eye

Yet Johan’s point of view wasn’t like that yesterday;

“Like many football fans, I was completely overwhelmed by the news that Jan van Beveren deceased,” said Cruijff. “Jan was technically one of the best goalkeepers we’ve ever had. Someone with a very personal style.”

So what are the truth of the rumours of a massive feud between the two? Well they’re more than rumours;

“Jan van Beveren, the extremely talented PSV-goalkeeper, was a man who played for the crowd. A wizard, capable of doing magical things between the posts. The best Holland had ever had, by a mile. Cruijff and Van Beveren, the biggest row in Dutch football history. With the most dramatic consequences. They must have been enemies since they first met. The tall and flexible Van Beveren opposed very heavily to all privileges Cruijff had in the Dutch squad: arriving late for trainingcamps, not having to play at all because of business-affaires, smoking in the dressingroom. And, like so often in Holland, it was about money. Van Beveren, not afraid of standing up against the emancipated Ajax-players, said: we’re in it together, everyone has to work for a good result, so we all have the same rights and the same duties. But that was not the case in the Holland-team, Cruijff was the “animal to be created equal, but a little more equal than the others”.

When Van Beveren got injured badly in 1973, Cruijff immediately took his chance to get rid of this powerthreatening teammate. With his big influence on coaches, he talked Amsterdam-born Jan Jongbloed into the squad for the World Cup 1974. He was a rather mediocre, elderly goalkeeper who previously had played just one cap, as a substitute in 1962″

To any keen student of world cup history the name Jan Jongbloed will ring a few bells; he was the Dutch keeper in both World Cup finals and he liked to wear the number 8.

I knew that Jongbloed had played in both World Cup finals and I’ve let the knowledge allow me to live under the wrong impression for years. I thought he was Holland’s undisputed number one,  the truth was somewhat different. Jongbloed earned one cap in 1962, then nothing until 1974, followed by a few more caps in ’74 and ’75 and then not much until 1977 and the 1978 world cup. Half of his 24 caps came in the world cups of Germany and Argentina.

The question of England accommodating two great keepers during the same period (Clemence and Shilton) was met with a job-sharing situation. The Dutch situation was altogether darker – Freeze one out;

“Between 1974 and 1978, Cruijff again managed to keep his big rival out of the team. Because Van Beveren was in his best form they just couldn’t ignore him, again the were some quarrels (Van Beveren left the team in 1975 but came back later) and in the end he was left on the bench behind three different goalkeepers. When he asked Jan Zwartkruis why he had been picked at all when it was clear that he would never play, the coach said: “Jan, don’t blame, I am being manipulated. I have no chance.” Cruijff had threatened never to play for Holland again, with Van Beveren in the same team. And the Dutch people would never have forgiven the coach, who let Cruijff go. Van Beveren knew enough, withdrew from the Dutch team after 32 caps. It was 1977, the world’s best goalkeeper was just 29 years of age.

    Jan van Beveren is the best goalkeeper the world has ever seen. But he’s never recognized as the best, and that is mainly because he never made it to the stage of the World Cup. And that is because he wasn’t a part of the Ajax-clan of the seventies. Everybody may say I’m crazy, I don’t mind. I can judge him, I’ve seen many games of him, I can compare him to other goalies and …. I have a sense of soccer. He could stop shots like I’ve never seen anybody doing, and in a majestical style. He would have saved Müllers soft shot easily, with both eyes closed and with his left hand bound on his back. He would have had a fair chance to save Breitner’s weak penalty-kick. Don’t ever think that Van Beveren would have allowed Kempes and Bertoni to squeeze through and take Argentina to the worldtitle. With Jan van Beveren as their goalkeeper, Holland would have been World Cup winners in 1974 and 1978. Cruijff also wanted to be a world champion, but only if he could be the one and only star himself. And it proved to be not enough.”

There’s something very saddening about the denial of talent like this. This story reminded me of another example of a lost international talent (albeit for different reasons) I read about in When Saturday Comes a couple of years ago; Vasilis Hatzipanagis.

 

Hatzipanagis is considered to be one of the top players in Greece’s football history but have you heard of him? Greek football fans certainly liked him;

“Another highlight for Hatzipanagis was his only appearance for the Greek national side, in a friendly against Poland at the Apostolos Nikolaidis stadium in May 1976. The Athens crowd were bewitched by the long-haired wonder, who seemed to do whatever he wanted with the ball.”

Have a look at what he was like;

The Greek federation liked him so much they put him forward as their “Golden Player” for UEFA’s 50th anniversary. According to When Saturday Comes Hatzipanagis was;

“A talented midfielder whose career was damaged by political interference, Vasilis Hatzipanagis set a world record for the longest gap between international caps. He made his debut for Greece against Poland in May 1976 and got his second cap in December 1999 when he played the first 20 minutes of a friendly against Ghana. The latter match doubled up as a testimonial for Hatzipanagis who was 46 by then and had been retired for several years. He was born in Tashkent in the Soviet Union where his Communist parents had resettled after the Greek civil war of 1946-49. The family were allowed to return to Greece in 1974 after the country’s military regime was removed from power. Hatzipanagis joined the Salonika club Iraklis and made a major impact – he was voted the best Greek player of the last 50 years in 2003. However, shortly after his national team debut, Soviet officials complained to UEFA that he had already played for the USSR at Under-23 level and so was not eligible to turn out for another country. Hatzipanagis was then banned from international football for the rest of his career.”

The example of these two supremely talented players begs a question, how many lost talents are there?

 

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