It’s never as easy as it looks. The first time I approached the goalkeeper alone was in E2. I was nine years old and I had only managed to score one (own) goal in one and a half season at ASV Arsenal, but now I was really on my way with the ball at my foot to the KDO keeper who had already started to overshoot . I was sure I wouldn’t be overtaken again – it wasn’t Mathieu van der Poel on the Mûr de Bretagne, but still. (Oh how beautiful that was, shall we talk about Mathieu van der Poel on the Mûr de Bretagne for two more weeks?)
The goal was huge – the E’s still played on whole fields so you needed three goalkeepers to reach the bar – but I nevertheless prepared a feint. I thought: if I turn to the left, the keeper dives at me, the ball rolls past it on the right and I score easily.
Just in front of the goalkeeper I jumped to the side. The KDO keeper looked surprised and picked up the ball. I tripped into him and asked for a penalty. Stupid ref! (Probably a Russian.)
So I know how long the 52nd minute of the Netherlands-Czech Republic Donyell Malen will last, the moment when the last defender tumbled over behind him and he felt that we all already counted that goal, in the certainty that this would be the redeeming moment in a tough game, that fifteen minutes later Matthijs de Ligt would head in the 2-0 from a corner, that he, Donyell Malen, only had to get the ball past the keeper, left, right, over it, God, there were so many ways to eternal fame.
Poor Donyell. Now he is in the most tragic list in Dutch football history: Rensenbrink’s post, Robben’s Casillasteen and the unfortunate Fortuintje van Malen. I didn’t know it was contagious.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of June 28, 2021