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Ruud Van Nistelrooy's Grandad

(This interview took place a few days before Ruud's transfer to Manchester United)

by Ties de Kort

In the first of a series of exclusive interviews with players' relatives, Soccerphile's Ties de Kort speaks to Ruud van Nistelrooy's granddad. Ruud has just joined Manchester United in a record £19m deal.

“The Dutch will qualify for World Cup”
Ruud van Nistelrooy's grandparents feel very much at home in their old farmhouse in Geffen, a small village about 40 kilometres north of Eindhoven. And no wonder, considering that grandmother Marie (76) was born there and grandfather Jan (83) has lived there since they got married 53 years ago. Their son Gert-Jan also lives there together with his family.

Picture of Ruud Van Nistelrooy as a boy

Ruud Van Nistelrooy
as a boy

Gert-Jan is the youngest of eight children. Their first was Tini (50), who in 1976 became the father of his first-born son Ruud. Tini was a gifted left winger, well-known in the Geffen region. His club (and all of his brothers') was called Nooit Gedacht (“Never Thought”). “Nooit Gedacht” was also Ruud's first club. He played there until he was 14 years old.

The only Van Nistelrooy that never played football is granddad. He didn't have time, he was far too busy with his cows. He dedicated his entire life to cattle-trade and farming. As a cattle-dealer he ranged the whole country: “I'm just a little farmer who is not able to do anything. I understand more about cows than soccer”, says grandpa, a spry looking little chap, who prefers playing a game of billiards in the local pub to watching a football match. “I didn't grasp the offside rule until Ruud became a professional player!”
Of course, grandpa and grandma are proud of their famous grandson but their attitude is down-to-earth. They sometimes dislike being a focus of attention because of their being Ruud's grandparents. “What can I say?” says grandma, “We're nothing special, are we?”. But with great pleasure, she shows us lots of old family-pictures. We get to see Ruud as a little boy, also as a young champion on old-time team-photos. There's a photo of him with his first ball, aged two, which was a gift from his uncle Gert-Jan.

A plucky little fellow
Grandpa remembers young Ruud as friendly and fit, a really sharp kid; always playing with a ball at his club or together with his friends in the streets. Already as a child he distinguished himself as a skillful and enthusiastic footballer. Gradually he developed into an exceptional talent. He combined his technical expertise with enormous ambition and effort. He surprised himself with every step he took. Slowly he came to realize that for him anything was possible in football - even a dream transfer to Manchester United. But then came his knee injury.
Granddad: “Success has many fathers, but his own father has always been one of his greatest mentors. After every match he would review all areas of Ruud's game.
The first time Ruud appeared on television gave quite a thrill to both grandparents, although they don't remember the exact game. “We almost missed his first appearance in the Dutch national team, because the match (against Germany) was broadcast by a network we could not receive”.
Now they often watch television when Ruud is playing. They enjoy watching him in the hope he will score yet again. For they know scoring goals is his greatest quality, together with his ability to read the game. “He seems to have eyes in his back”, says granddad. They hoped Ruud would stay with PSV Eindhoven (though Sir Alex Ferguson of Manchester United has finally got his man for a club record £19m), but believe Ruud and his girlfriend Leontien will probably know what's best.

Grandpa Jan is a great fan of Leontien: “She's a fine and beautiful lady”. That's what he whispered in Ruud's ear when they both visited them during his recuperation.

Ruud had to miss Euro 2000 because of his cruciate injury. After the draw against Portugal, “Oranje” is still able to qualify for the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. But all of the remaining games must be won, and especially the crucial clash against the Irish. Grandpa and grandma hope and expect this will happen. Maybe a fully-recovered Ruud van Nistelrooy will help the Dutch cause in the next few games. His grandparents are counting on it.

Coming soon: Rivaldo's mother-in-law

'Brilliant Orange'A History of Dutch Footballby David Winner
'Brilliant Orange'
A History of Dutch Football
by David Winner

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