From playing football at the AFAS Training Complex in Wijdewormer to playing in La Bombonera in Buenos Aires, Argentina: the contrast could hardly be greater for the players of AZ Under-20. They will play against Boca Juniors in the U20 Intercontinental Cup on Saturday evening. Many players have roots in our province and started their careers at North Holland amateur clubs. Their old clubs are therefore very much looking forward to the match. “I really feel proud that a player of ours can reach such a level.”
The Waagplein was overflowing and the sky turned red from the smoke of the fans after AZ won the Youth League, a kind of Champions League for youth teams, in April. In the final, which was played in Geneva, Switzerland, Hajduk Split from Croatia was blown off the field 5-0. The young Alkmaarders were welcomed as heroes in their city, with a real celebration in the city center.
The icing on the cake is that they will be playing on Saturday evening in the legendary Estadio Alberto J. Armando, nicknamed La Bombonera, for the World Cup for youth teams against Boca Juniors from Buenos Aires. There are already more than thirty thousand tickets sold.
If AZ wins the U20 Intercontinental Cup, it can rightly be called a historic achievement. The competition has only been organized once before. In 2022, Portuguese Benfica won against Peñarol from Uruguay in the final.
The kick-off is Saturday evening at 9 p.m. Dutch time. The match can be followed live via Ziggo Sport or ESPN.
Dave Kwakman was a permanent fixture in coach Jan Sierksma’s team during AZ’s Youth League adventure. The 19-year-old midfielder started his football career at RKAV Volendam. Jaap Schilder, head of youth training at that club, remembers well that Kwakman stood out at the age of 9.
“He was already very advanced at the time. He distinguished himself in things such as recognizing game situations and making choices on the field. Because of those skills, coupled with his motor skills and mentality, you soon saw that he could become something very special.”
Hall of Fame
Schilder explains that Kwakman’s good performance also reflects on his old club. “It’s fantastic when you can ask youth players who they want to be when they grow up and point to Dave Kwakman in the club’s Hall of Fame.”
But even as a Volendammer it makes him proud that another fellow villager is about to break through in national football. “And that for a village with just over twenty thousand inhabitants. It’s damn impressive that there are so many who go far.”
Heiloo resident Lewis Schouten was also one of the pillars in coach Jan Sierksma’s team. Bouwe Groot, youth board member of HSV, still remembers many of Schouten’s first football steps at the Heilooër amateur club. “He was really a very talented boy, he was much further ahead than his peers.” Groot goes to watch the match against Boca Juniors with his son. “My son has played with Schouten for a long time, so the two of us are going to watch.”
“As HSV, we are very proud of Lewis and Sem Dekkers, who is also in the selection,” says the youth board member of the amateur club from Heiloo. “It’s really nice for those boys. But they were so good, they also broke through at another club. It’s just nice that it happened at HSV.”
Jayden Addai’s talent did not go unnoticed for long at VPV Purmersteijn in Purmerend. The 17-year-old attacker made it 1-0 for AZ in the final of the Youth League against Hajduk Split. At the age of 10 he was picked up by AZ.
“It is misplaced to think that we made that boy so big, because he had talent down to his little toes,” says Maarten Zegstroo from Purmersteijn. “But it is nice that he used to wear such a white-blue outfit. I really feel proud that a player of ours can reach such a level.”
North Holland talents
A fair number of the AZ players who traveled to Buenos Aires for the U20 Intercontinental Cup against Boca Juniors come from North Holland. Of the 22 players, twenty come from this province.
Goalkeepers: Rome-Jayden Owusu-Oduro (Purmerend), Arouna Kabba (Amsterdam).
Defenders: Wouter Goes (Amsterdam), Maxim Dekker (Rijsenhout), Finn Stam (Zaandam), Jurre van Aken (Obdam), Loek Postma (Uitgeest), Sem Dekkers (Heiloo), Jeremiah Esajas (Amsterdam).
Midfielders: Nick Twisk (Egmond a/d Hoef), Tom Kerssens (Alkmaar), Kees Smit (Heiloo), Dave Kwakman (Volendam), Job Kalisvaart (Heerhugowaard), Enoch Mastoras (Noord-Scharwoude), Lewis Schouten (Heiloo).
Attackers: Nick Koster (Aalsmeer), Ernest Poku (Amsterdam), Jayden Addai (Purmerend), Mexx Meerdink, Damienus Reverson (Amsterdam).
Only goalkeeper Tristan Kuijsten and attacker Mexx Meerdink are not from the province. They come from Almere and Winterswijk respectively.
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