Monday, 20 October 2008

The Boys From Paramaribo

David Winner in his excellent book 'Brilliant Orange' entitles a chapter 'The Boys of Paramaribo' going in depth about the links between Suranimese football and Dutch football. I've always loved Dutch football and root for them at tournaments. They play football the right way and, as I've noted elsewhere, Ajax captured my imagination as a teenager. If you love football, you should love the Dutch... and the Surinamese!

Paramaribo has a population of 250,000 (Suriname has aroun 470,000). Has such a small city given the world so many great players over the last 30 years or so?
  • Aron Winter (84 caps for Holland)
  • Clarence Seedorf (87 caps for Holland)
  • Edgar Davids (75 caps for Holland)
  • Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (23 caps for Holland)
  • Romeo Catelen (current Dutch international)
  • Andwele Slory (current Dutch international)
And lots of other Dutch internationals that have got a few caps or just been very solid professionals. Stanley Menzo (6 caps), Regi Blinker (3 caps), Henk Fraser (6 caps), Ulrich van Gobbel (8 caps), Marciano Vink (2 caps), John Veldman (1 cap), Ken Monkou, Dwight Tiendalli, Mark de Vries. Fabian Wilnis and Nordin Wooter*.

Now what you'll have noticed is that none of these players did play or do play for Suriname... that is because there is a ruling (presumably from the Surinamese FA) that states that people who move abroad (more often than not to play in the Netherlands) are not eligible to play for Suriname. Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face!

However, perhaps the saddest part of Suranimese footballing history isn't that so many of their players go on to represent The Dutch, but that of Suriname Airways Flight PY764... where 15 players died.

A group of Surinamese players playing in the Netherlands organised an exhibition team known as ''The Colourful XI''. The team was an initiative of a social worker known as Sonny Hasnoe who worked with disadvantaged children in Amsterdam. Many of Suranimese descent lived in rough areas of Amsterdam away from mainstream Dutch society. Hasnoe encouraged young boys to join football clubs and noted an improvement in their behaviour when they were playing sports as it gave them an opportunity to interact with their white contemporaries and so helped speed up the process of social integration.

In 1986, Hasnoe organised a match between some Surinamese Dutch Professionls and SV Robinhood, champions of Surinam. The match was a cracking success and further contests were set up. The ''Colourful XI' were to play in Paramaribo in June 1989, however a number of players were denied permission to travel by their Dutch professional clubs. Those who were denied permission to travel including such legends as Gullit, Rijkaard, Winter, Roy and Blinker. Instead, 18 ''second stringers'' traveled instead and crashed on approach to Paramaribo Airport.

Those players who weren't held back by their clubs:

  • Ruud Degenaar, Heracles Almelo
  • Lloyd Doesburg, Ajax
  • Steve van Dorel, FC Volendam,
  • Wendel Fraser, RBS Roosendaal
  • Jerry Haatracht, Neerlandia (travelling in place of his brother)
  • Frits Goodings, Wageningen
  • Virgall Joemankhan, Cercle Brugge
  • Andro Knel, NAC Breda
  • Ruben Kogeldans, Willem II Tilburg
  • Ortwin Lingre, HFC Haarem
  • Fred Patrick, PEC Zwolle
  • Andy Scharmin, FC Twene
  • Elfried Veldman, De Graafschap
  • Florian Vijent, Telstar
  • Nick Stiensra, RC Heemstede (coach)

Three players survied - Sigi Lens of Fortuna Sittard (who never played again), Edu Nandhal of Vitesse Arnhem (the crash rendered him a quadriplegic) and Radjin de Haan of Telstar (18 years old and who never played again). A sad tale indeed and a real lost generation of Surinamese players.

This wasn't meant to be such a sad story - it was to show that a small country can produce amazing footballers over and over again!


* And that doesn't take into account all those of Suranimese descent - Gullit, Rijkaard, Drenthe, Babel, Ten Cate, Reiziger, Kluivert, de Jong, van Hooijdonk, Bogarde and Zuiverloon.

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