‘Celebrating the title with my two brothers was more beautiful than my debut at 18’

‘Celebrating the title with my two brothers was more beautiful than my debut at 18’
‘Celebrating the title with my two brothers was more beautiful than my debut at 18’

Every month we let a football player from the lower leagues speak here. This time: Gert-Jan Verhoeven, goalkeeper at second-provincial team Eendracht Mazenzele Opwijk in Flemish Brabant.

‘We were at home with seven children and you can safely say that we come from a sporty family. My sister Astrid, who finished 33rd in the marathon a few weeks ago at the European Championships in Munich, is by far the best athlete of the gang. My brothers Gerome, Arne and myself are doing well as a footballer and we have been playing together at Mazenzele since last season.

‘Arne has been playing at the club for a while and he has dropped our name on the board. They were surprised that there was interest from us in going down to the second provincial, since Arne and I were basic players in the amateur series at SK Londerzeel and Voorde-Appelterre respectively. After a first conversation I saw a transfer to Mazenzele completely. The club’s ambitions matched mine, I wanted to play football closer to home and the presence of my brothers was an extra incentive. Gérôme hesitated for a while because he was 20 years old at the time and had the feeling that he could go even higher. In the end, we signed with Mazenzele within 24 hours.

We meet with our parents, have a bite to eat there and then leave for the match.’ Gert-Jan Verhoeven

‘Three brothers playing football at the same club? That’s something unique! A childhood dream come true. And it’s nice for my parents too. It used to be a choice between one of us three or they had to split up. That problem is now solved. We actually want to play in the same team for as long as possible and who knows, maybe the three of us could end up in the amateur series. Then the circle would be complete.

“You know what makes it really special? That we usually kicked off together last season. Arne had to miss one match due to a suspension, Gérôme was suspended for two matches I think and I didn’t miss a minute.’

FAMILY TRADITION

‘This will be my second season in provincial and I notice a difference with my period in national football. It is less taxing, there are fewer obligations and you play against local teams. Relocations to West Flanders or Wallonia are no longer an option. It’s all very friendly. I won’t say that you can just cancel every week for a training session, but it is just a bit more relaxed than what I was used to at Eendracht Aalst, SK Londerzeel and RFC Wetteren in the national series. Provincial football has also been professionalized to a certain extent. It used to be said that you didn’t have to be trained to play on Sunday, but that is no longer true. I see with my own eyes that even players who are active at the very lowest level are taking good care of themselves.

‘I live in Opwijk, within walking distance of the stadium. Gérôme and Arne live in the neighboring municipality of Asse. During the week it is not convenient to drive to training together, but on Sunday it is possible. We meet up with our parents, have a bite to eat there and leave for the game from there. Hopefully we can continue that tradition that grew naturally last season. Those are the kind of family moments you should cherish. But such a car ride with the Verhoevens is a peaceful affair. We don’t crawl into the car excited or stressed and we haven’t put together a playlist to get us in the right mood. We live calmly towards the match.

My personal goals for this season? Stay injury free, play every minute like last season and keep a clean sheet once every three games. Last season we took the title in second provincial and it will be impossible to equal that. Now I also realize: playing champion with my brothers was the best moment of my career. In terms of feeling, I rate it even higher than my debut on my 18th with Eendracht Aalst for 12,000 men on the Bosuil.’

The article is in Dutch

Belgium

Tags: Celebrating title brothers beautiful debut

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