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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Interview with Ruben Olthuis, Creator and Webmaster of Best Players Directory and the Brazilian Football Websites

Calcio Connection

Best Players Directory


Brazilian Football Websites, Seleçao dos Melhores Sites de Futebol Brasil


01 March 2007

AC Cugini Calcio Connection is very pleased to welcome Mr. Ruben Olthuis, who is the creator of one of the largest soccer player databases in the world, along with a site dedicated to Brazilian soccer. The player database, as of this writing, contains 768 players from 68 different countries. Along with links to 1031 web sites, blogs, official sites, and fan pages. The Brazilian project has fan web sites, club sites, links to Futsal (indoor soccer that is very popular in Brasil), and the National Team (Seleçao). Let us not forget that Mr. Olthuis is from the Netherlands, and not Samba land!

Mr. Olthuis was born in Warnsveld, The Netherlands, which is a town located in the eastern part of this delightful country. He now resides in the vicinity of his birthplace with his wife and twin daughters. He is professionally employed as an IT manager for Aviko, and he configures Electronic Data Interchange connections (EDI) for his clients. He began playing “voetbal” at the age of 8, and until a recent injury, had participated in the sport for his entire life.

For a small country, The Netherlands has produced some of the most talented players in world football. Many of whom have played in the Italian Serie A (Marco Van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Edgar Davids, Ruud Gullitt, Frank Rijkaard, and Clarence Seedorf.) Many years ago, I was fortunate to see Johan Cryuff and Johan Neeskens, two excellent players who wore the famous orange shirt of the Netherlands, end their illustrious careers here in North America. The Dutch revolutionized soccer back in the 70s with “Total Football,” which was the free-flowing creation of Mr. Rinus Michels, a famous coach. For me, they always were reminiscent of the way Brasil played. Perhaps this might explain Mr. Olthuis’ affinity for the Brazilian game. Well, let’s ask him and see?

Ruben, welcome to Calcio Connection!

Steve Amoia (SA) For a small country in terms of population, why do you think The Netherlands have produced some of the finest footballers and coaches in the world?

Ruben Olthuis (RO) Very simple, because playing soccer starts on an early age at clubs that are everywhere. To give you an example, that in a small town like Zutphen, we have 9 soccer clubs within an area of 3 km. These clubs have good contacts with professional teams, and there are scouts everywhere that select the talented players. These players are then invited to traineeships, and when passing these exams, put into the club’s soccer schools. The network is huge, and the number of kids playing soccer also!

(SA) As a young child, who was your favorite Dutch club team?

(RO) I had one team, and one team only. AJAX Amsterdam. Also because of their attacking way of playing soccer (with skillful wingers) and their great soccer players. You already mentioned them: Van Basten, Rijkaard, Vaneburg, and Wouters. And later Kluivert, Seedorf (currently with AC Milan) and Davids. All great players that have showed their skills in Europe.

Currently they haven’t got the team (especially not good defenders) to do well in Europe. But if they invest in good and bigger defenders (not only Jaap Stam) than I have no doubt they will be big again in Europe.

Furthermore, I don’t want to forget mentioning Wesley Sneijder. In my opinion, the best player playing for Ajax at the moment. This guy is thinking 3 steps ahead in giving a pass or scoring a goal. Can play both left and right footed (very, very important). Also closely watch Ryan Babel . Both players have their own website which you can visit on my site http://footballplayers.mine.nu.

(SA) Many Brazilians over the years have played in Holland (Baltazar, Romario, and Ronaldo to name a few.) When did your passion for Brazilian football begin?

(RO) It really began with Romario playing for Psv Eindhoven. That guy was really amazing. His skills enabled him to score goals. And even if he didn’t score it was worthwhile staying at home to watch the matches of Psv with your family and friends.

His style was very much like Maradona: A lot of dribbling and always knowing where the goal was. Of course, Romario was a real number 9 (center forward) and Maradona a number 10 (creative playmaker) though many similarities could be made.

Currently of course Ronaldinho and Kakà are my favorites. They don’t need an extra introduction...

After that, I started to follow the Brazilian team. Their samba soccer, their World Cups, their goals, and everything else on Brazilian soccer. I started practicing their tricks and moves on the playground. It was (or is) a real soccer virus, though highly tempered during the last World Cup. I am still enjoying the Brazilian way of playing soccer. “Joga bonito,” my friends.

(SA) Ruben, please tell us about the beginnings of your web projects, along with your motivations to develop such specialized sites?

(RO) Well, I was surfing a lot on the Soccernet, and I collected many websites of soccer players into my personal favorites, and therefore wanted those player sites to be shared with other soccer fans around the world. There were not many multi-player websites out there, and if there were, they were inactive and part of larger link directories on soccer like Dmoz, Football-Linx, etc. Concentrating on players only made it possible for me to better monitor these links.

However, with my database growing each day, you have to admit it is getting more difficult for me too.

(SA) What is the most difficult challenge to maintain such a large database of player information and related web sites?

(RO) A good content management system is the answer. One that is personally built by my friend Ruben de Jong (Yes, he has the same name). One disadvantage of such a system is the code used in the web address, which is not always indexed by search engines. For this, you can always build a rewrite URL, but that is something your provider should support. Currently for me, this is too expensive, but an option for the future!

(SA) You have twin daughters. How popular is soccer for young women in Holland, and are there organized leagues and youth academies dedicated to women?

(RO) It is rising in Holland enormously, currently more than 88.000 females are playing soccer. With that soccer is the 2nd largest sport (after hockey) in The Netherlands. Strange that in earnings this sport is ranked after sports like volleyball and tennis.

For the first time in Dutch history, plans are made to start an Eredivisie (first division) for women. This competition should start in 2008-2009. Also broadcasting those matches on television. They wanted to start with it even this year, but unfortunately, Ajax and Feyenoord were not ready yet.

I think we have still a long way to go in female soccer. But with the number of female players in our country, that’s just a matter of time.

(SA) Michael Bradley, the son of the U.S. National Men’s coach, Mr. Bob Bradley, plays for Sc Heerenveen in the Dutch Eredivisie. Last year, another American, DaMarcus Beasley, played for Mr. Guus Hiddink at PSV Eindhoven. What is your impression of American players who have played in Holland?

(RO) First of all lets not forget “good old” Ernest Stewart who played for Dutch club Willem II. A highly respected person here in The Netherlands and a great icon for American soccer.

DaMarcus Beasley is still a highly skilled player but too light-weighted for Champions League matches. Playing against the big English defenders or the ‘Materazzi’s’ of this world asks more from a soccer player than skills only. He was okay for the Dutch competition, a competition that doesn’t belong to the top competitions in Europe, and excellent for players like Beasley to show their skills.

Unfortunately, he is now playing for Manchester City, which in my opinion doesn’t do him very good. He is also sitting on the bench most of the time which doesn’t help him either in his progress. Let’s hope he comes back to The Netherlands!

It is hard to tell anything on Michael Bradley because I haven’t been following him closely at Sc Heerenveen. But from now on, I promise the American people, I will do so!!

That is my impression of American players playing in Holland. In my opinion, I don’t see real American athletes in soccer. Most of the American players I see are nice, gentle, and modest people. Most of the time not having the muscular ‘American’ body! Certainly, not like the Americans I see in other sports. Maybe that is because those people play the ‘rougher’ sports like American football or Ice Hockey?

I really don’t know, and ‘love’ to hear other people’s opinions on this.

Ruben, thank you very much for your contribution to our column. Continued success and all the best wishes. Dank U wel.

by Steve Amoia, AC Cugini CALCIO CONNECTION

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