While most of us can only dream of following in the footsteps of the role-models we admire, one young footballer has taken the next step in making his dream a reality.
Eleven-year-old Mees Eppink, a goalkeeper at the Muscat Football Academy (MFA), has been signed on for joining the prestigious youth academy of the Dutch giants, Ajax Amsterdam, as part of a one-year deal that begins this July.
Eppink, who joined MFA as an eight-year-old, has already made his debut for the European giants, starring in a 1-0 win that saw him keep a clean sheet, having first come to prominence in last year’s Mundialto youth tournament in Lisbon, where Mees and his team mates rubbed shoulders with players from some of football’s finest academies, including Mexico’s Club America, Spanish giants FC Barcelona, German outfit Borussia Dortmund and of course, Ajax.
Although Mees was later offered a place at English outfit Fulham, given that his family hail from the Netherlands and the prestige surrounding Ajax, joining the Dutch club was a no-brainer.
“We are very proud parents,” said Pascal Eppink, Mees’ father. “Over the last year, he joined a swim team on his own initiative to be fit for Ajax and this boost in his fitness and stamina enormously and has impressed the coaches at Ajax as well.”
“Even though he is still young, this is an opportunity he has to grab as they come around very rarely,” he added. “He can now pursue his passion, and from there see if he wants to pursue it indefinitely. We held back from Fulham because schooling was an issue, and there was no family over there.”
“Ajax Amsterdam has an excellent academy with a great reputation and history in Europe, and it is also our home town,” said Pascal.
Ajax has produced players, who have gone on to achieve great things for the club and country, including strikers Patrick Kluivert, Dennis Berkgamp and Marco van Basten, winger Marc Overmars, defenders Ronald Koeman and Michael Reiziger and mid-fielders Clarence Seedorf and Edgar Davids, to name a few. Ajax is also the proponent of the now-famed system of Total Football, pioneered by the legendary Ajax and Dutch attacker Johan Cruyff.
Given his playing position, though, Mees admires former Manchester United goalie Edwin van der Sar, and current Barcelona keeper Jesper Cillesen, both products of the Ajax youth academy.
“I am of course very happy, but I have some work to do before that,” said Mees. “Coach says I need to improve my footwork and be more vocal when it comes to collecting corners and communicating with my defenders.”
“My dream one day is to play for Ajax, and then play for one of the biggest clubs in Europe, such as real Madrid or Barcelona,” added Mees. “It is a great opportunity for me to go play football, but I know there will be many challenges for me.”
The coach he referred to is Chuck Martini, head coach of MFA. The former Leicester City goalkeeper is very happy for him for making the step up to Ajax.
“I always knew he had talent, but I wanted to see if he could perform under pressure in a real game, and he’s always done that very well,” recalled Martini. “He was only nine at the Mundialto, but he was playing with kids who were three or four years older to him and he was very good throughout.”
“He’s a good boy, and he’s got a good head on his shoulders,” added Martini. “If young players go overseas to academies and prove themselves there, it can only help Oman’s national team in the long run.”
Source: Times of Oman