Redouan is testing his new access pass. He races through the corridors of the community center at a fast pace – you wouldn’t say that he has already completed two training sessions today. One by one he opens classrooms. One, two, three, four five… “And last year we also had a room downstairs and one across the street.”
At the moment the spaces are still empty and bare, soon hundreds of children from the Utrecht district of Overvecht will be here four days a week.
a lot of crime
Growing up there is not always easy, says Redouan. “There is a lot of crime here, quite a bit of unemployment as well. Many people have an unhealthy lifestyle. A child has to deal with all of that. That grows up in it.”
Overvecht still has quite a bit of work to do, but is also growing very fast in a positive sense, he says. “That is what we would like to contribute to with the Dare to Dreams foundation.”
Redouan can talk about it. Opposite the community center is the flat where he grew up, a Dutch-Moroccan boy, his three sisters and their loving, but illiterate parents.
“My parents encouraged me to develop myself. My father in the field of sports – football is really his passion. And my mother thought school was very important. Especially when it comes to discipline, motivation, hard work and knowing what that means for you. is doing.”
And develop, that’s what Redouan did. On the football field, but also at school. In the eighth grade of primary school, he unexpectedly got a high Cito score.
“I was allowed to go to pre-university education. But I heard that I would be challenged a little more at the gymnasium, so I wanted that then.” His parents were so proud of him, they couldn’t really help with his schoolwork. “You can support in love and support in content. The first I had in abundance, the second I had to miss at home. In that respect I had some obstacles to overcome.”
At the gymnasium where he ended up, Redouan found the exact opposite situation. It was interesting in terms of content, but he was not really seen or appreciated. “For example, in the second grade, my German teacher told me that in the past twenty years exactly 0.0 percent of Moroccan boys had passed the gymnasium. I got so angry. I thought: why would you tell me this? I represent not a group, I’m just an individual.”
It awakened in him a deep desire to show what he has in him. He learned to adapt everywhere: at school, but also in the neighbourhood.
“I lived in two worlds. Couldn’t be myself completely anywhere, I kept asking myself: what is the right way to act in this place? If I were facing the boys on the street here in Overvecht at that time, I would have a problem being bullied. And if I didn’t conform to their way of doing things at school, I’d be locked out there.”
It wasn’t necessarily a happy time, but it brought him a lot: “I’ve developed on two tracks. I can now deal with all kinds of different people and still be completely myself.” It’s a quality that helps him on the football pitch and the reason he was regularly voted captain, even now.
From amateur to professional
His career started on the same square stamp, at the VVOO football club, next to the community center and opposite his parental home. As a boy of 8 he was spotted here by PSV and invited for an internship. “That came to nothing, but that’s how I came across USV Elinkwijk, a club with a very good youth academy. I played there for ten years. Then I ended up at VV De Meern. We were promoted to the third division and because I had a considerable share in that promotion, I was asked for Jong Utrecht.”
Initially, as an 18-year-old, he was paid nothing, only a travel allowance, while he did earn money at VV De Meern. “But I let that go, I took the chance, because I wanted to go to that professional level. I went from training twice a week to seven or eight times a week. I quit my side job at Dirk van den Broek, I dropped out of my studies in governance and organizational science at university. I had to grab this opportunity.”
And with success, because two months later he still got his professional contract. In 2019 he switched to Telstar, and in March 2021 he signed with Excelsior Rotterdam – the name of the club in Latin meaning ‘ever higher’ suits him well. They were promoted to the Eredivisie last season.
In football too, his worlds sometimes collided. “At school I had learned to give my opinion, to be critical. I took that with me to the field. Now I have a trainer with whom I can spar very well, who gives me the space to speak out and understands that I I would like to think along out of involvement. But I have had enough trainers who felt that I should just keep my mouth shut and do what is asked of me. Then you will be limited in your development, I think.”
In the locker room, he found few guys he could truly identify with who had walked the same path. There are also few professional players who played at an amateur level for so long. “I learned a lot from my teammates in that.”
For example, when it is worth fighting the trainer, and when it is better to keep your mouth shut. It’s part of the professional education football has given him: “Come on time, give everything, do what’s asked of you, play football to your task.”
This all-round learning experience – at home, the street, the gymnasium, the field – enables him to see what is still lacking in many of those environments. That would become the basis for his foundation. “I’ve had the idea around since I was 18, but it wasn’t until I was 22 that I really started working on it. I had just turned pro, and because I stopped studying, there was room to develop this concept. “
“My German teacher’s comment had always stuck with me: why were there so few boys like me in the gym? It wasn’t a lack of intelligence or talent, so there were clearly other things at play.”
It is in him to see opportunities everywhere: “I am always curious if there is something better or more beautiful, if there is something to do.” And there it was.
Dare to dream
At first he talked a lot. With his older sister, with organizations in the neighbourhood, with his good friend Achraf. He phoned Nesrine, a psychologist and educator, and went for coffee with Rida, who is a tax specialist. He discussed his plans over a McFlurry with Ikram and Noura, whom he knew from his time at the Dirk. Everyone wanted to help. With all that input, he refined his plan for two years and set up the Dare to Dream foundation. He arranged a board through his contacts at the university and they started working in October 2020.
In two years’ time, the initially modest club grew into a group of volunteers of eighty people. Last year they helped about 350 students, from group 3 of primary school to class 6 of pre-university education. They receive tutoring and homework guidance, English and talent development.
Redouan: “Our main goal is to help children in their development, and to help parents to assist them in this. Of course, this involves math or language, but also the peripheral matters for which there is less time in schools, but which are just as important. We have ten themes, which we work on every four weeks, for example motivation and discipline, health and self-confidence. We also put this into practice outside the classroom; for example, before the debate block we organize a visit to the court.”
Proud of the team
And then there are countless other activities. “We go to a discovery hall, to the forest, we have a trade fair, let the children get acquainted with unknown sports such as bow and arrow shooting or BMX. During the holidays we always organize something fun, not just for our own students, but for all the kids in the neighborhood.”
Now if you’re wondering if that wouldn’t take a huge amount of time, you’ve got a point. “In the first year I still taught myself, there is no time for that now,” says Redouan. “I am involved in developing the concept, the finances, the contact with the parents. And I spend a lot of time on my team, which I am most proud of. We really do it together.”
And all this in addition to a career in top sport. “I sometimes get complaints on the field that I spend too much time on the foundation, take too little rest.” He trains six days a week in Rotterdam, sometimes twice a day. But during the school year he can also be found at the foundation seven days a week. He thinks it is important to be visible to the children and their parents. “Except on match days, then I give myself 100 percent for that.”
In fact, he always does everything with dedication. He calls it his survival mechanism: “I want to depend as little as possible on the judgment of others in order to be able to make something of my life. By completing my grammar school, I have made it easier for myself, I can switch. Of course, you can also go very far with an MBO diploma, but I simply did not see that at the time. I had to get it. And the same with football. I always think: if I don’t seize this opportunity, it can have consequences. ”
“At the same time, what others think still has an influence: it remains a political game, you have to be given opportunities. In that sense, the pressure remains high, that breaks me now and then. There are times when I’m just working, day in day out.”
And yet, there always seems to be more to add. When inspecting the classrooms, he says: “Perhaps I can also start an evening library here. For students from the neighbourhood, because the university library is quite a distance by bike and is often full, I know from experience.” Giving others what he himself has missed, proving the opposite and showing what is possible are the ultimate motivations of Redouan.
Every Sunday we publish an interview in text and photos of someone who is doing or has experienced something special. That can be a major event that he or she handles admirably. The Sunday interviews have in common that the story has a major influence on the life of the interviewee.
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