Unless you’ve spent the last couple of months in a promotion anxiety induced alcoholic stupor, you probably spotted that Arjan de Zeeuw is flying over a team of ‘Dutch Masters’ to play against the ‘Latics Legends’ at Ashton Town FC this Friday, May 13 (7.30pm). To promote the game, The Mudhutter got to grill Arry in the following interview that appeared in the now sold out issue 56 of The MFE.
How many times have you been back to Wigan since you left?
I’ve only been back a handful of times. A couple of those were as a pundit for Sky TV, but I haven’t been back as much as I’d have liked. Primarily that’s because of my job – I’m very busy. And I also have a very busy family life. It’s not easy to just fly over to England when you have four kids – four daughters. They keep me pretty busy.
What are you most looking forward to about coming ‘home’?
Obviously I’m looking forward to visiting the area again, meeting some old friends, including a few of the lads we’ll be playing against in the legends game. There’s so many great players, great guys, we’ll be facing – Roberto Martinez, Graeme Jones, Paul Scharner…a real blast from the past. It will be very strange playing against my old team-mates. I actually considered playing half for Holland and half for Wigan. It’s going to be strange for me, but great at the same time.
How much persuading did you need to come over for the game?
I’m so excited, I didn’t need persuading at all. The game is going to be fantastic, and the cause is wonderful – Joseph’s Goal. To get so many big names to come over from Holland shows you what a big event it’s going to be. All of the ex-pros we approached said ‘yes’ straight away when they heard about it, and what it’s raising money for. It was originally going to be a Dutch police XI, but we knew this could be bigger, with some big-name Dutch internationals, and it will be.
Going back to your childhood, who were your team back in Holland?
I played for Telstar, but as a kid my team was AZ Alkmaar. I used to go and watch them with my grandad and my uncle. They were both big cigar smokers, and I was ‘fumed out’ in the middle! But I loved the atmosphere. They have a new stadium now and they’re doing very well.
Who was your hero/role model?
I used to admire anyone who was good at sport. I was a big fan of Joop Zoetemelk, the Dutch cyclist who won the Tour de France. As far as football goes, I was a big admirer of the Dutch player Ruud Krol. Further afield Franco Baresi. But I was always more interested in doing my own thing rather than watching someone else on TV.
You started off at Telstar, what sort of club were they are how are they doing now? Are you their most celebrated player or are their other notable players?
They’re doing okay, they’re in the league below the top flight. They’ve been there for a few years, a kind of regional side. We didn’t used to have relegation in Holland, but they’ve changed it now so I suppose there is a possibility they could one day get into the top flight. They’re a special club, though. They awarded me a testimonial recently, and in fact several fans from Wigan came over for it. It was quite amazing. I heard them chanting, and I suddenly thought: ‘Hang on, that’s in English!’ I managed to get them up in the players’ lounge after, as a thank you. That was nice.
Do you ever think Dutch football will get to the top table again in European club football or has the Champions League effectively shut the door on the likes of Ajax, Eindhoven, Feyenoord et al ever winning a major European trophy?
That’s the problem. There’s too many bigger leagues out there with too much money. The talent leaves Holland so early these days, before they’ve even really showed what they can do. Dutch football is still very highly regarded, and rightly so, because the training is great and players learn great technique. One day we might get back to that level in club football, but it’s getting harder and harder. The Spanish league, the Italian league, the German league, and of course the English league have so much money. PSV are doing okay – they pay the highest money, but they have to do that to even compete in the Champions League.
Which Dutch club would you compare Wigan Athletic to?
You don’t really have something like the Wigan Athletic story in Holland, because of the set-up. But I would say maybe Zwolle. They were small team that came up, they won the cup, and it transformed the place.
Do you think you could and should have played for Holland?
I wanted to! But only one guy can make that decision and he didn’t think so! I know they were keeping an eye on me at one point. I heard Jaap Stam was carrying an injury, and I might be the one to get called up. He killed me, playing in the same position. He was far quicker than I was. But that’s okay, I’m at peace with it.
How would you have felt if you’d played at Wigan under Roberto Martinez, who encourages his centre halves to pass around the back? Is this a style you’re comfortable with?
I would have loved that! He just loves the game – he lives it and he breathes it. I was out with him once, and I remember saying: ‘Is there anything else you would like to talk about other than football?’ But he was a great guy, very charismatic. He’s a real people person who looks after his players, and I like that.
Who was the quickest – you, Stephane Henchoz or Matt Jackson?
I would have to say me, definitely!
Would you ever consider becoming a football manager?
Yes…and I still would! It’s difficult, though, because I’ve chosen a different career path. And it’s hard to combine that with football.
Tell us about what you do now as a detective?
It’s very different! You’re meeting different people, the other side of society. You’re chasing suspects rather than chasing a ball. You’re still in a team, running investigations rather than up and down a field.
Have you seen ‘Making a Murderer’?
No, but it’s on my ‘to watch’ list! I’ve nearly finished ‘Game of Thrones’, and that’s next on the list.
What three items would you take if you were stranded on a desert island?
My girlfriend and my kids. But being a desert island, they might die out there, and I want to keep them safe. So I’ll go for a football to keep me occupied, a coffee machine, and a mountain bike to keep me busy.
When Tony Blair was Prime Minister, he chose you as his favourite Premier League player. So who’s your favourite politician?
I quite liked Tony Blair, to be honest – although I’m not necessarily saying I support the Labour party. But as a person…I’m sure that helped him to be in power for so long. As far as the comment went…I thought it was quite impressive. I thought: ‘Wow, that’s nice’. At least it’s something to be remembered for. I owe him for that!
Well, on that note, we’ll say thanks to Arry, Joseph’s Goal, Paul Kendrick and The Mufhutter for the interview. As we said above, issue 56 has sold out, but you can get the latest issue and other back copies at www.mudhutter.co.uk.
Tickets for the game are on sale from the DW Stadium ticket office and www.wiganathletic.com/tickets, priced £10 adults, £5 Under-16s and Under-6s free.
Additionally, Arry and Paul Scharner will also be taking part in a ‘Legends Night’ fans’ forum at the DW on Thursday, May 12 (7pm) – an intimate chance to meet two of Wigan Athletic’s all-time greatest players and biggest characters, and ask the question YOU have always wanted answering. Tickets are £6, also available from the DW.