On a memorable football evening, law student Tim Pieters becomes a great star with two goals: USV Hercules beats Ajax

He had thought about it for a long time. Had conversations with his mother, and later with technical director Jordy Zuidam of FC Utrecht. They were surprised when Tim Pieters decided to quit professional football in 2021, at the age of nineteen. He did something that professionals rarely do: switch to a degree. Rights, in this case. Because he wanted to become a lawyer. Criminal law seemed nice to him.

“I know I can play football well, but I shouldn’t pretend I’m one of the best around,” said he told the sports channel that year ESPN. He thought there was a greater chance that he would succeed in a social career. At that time he played in the First Division with Jong FC Utrecht, where he was a talented left winger. He scored regularly and often provided assists.

The world of football doesn’t really suit him either, he admitted. These are not the people he “normally” interacts with. “It’s a pretty tough world. I don’t know if I could have kept that up for fifteen years.” So he started studying in his hometown of Utrecht. “Then I can do what I like more often. A bit more freedom.” He went back to his old club, USV Hercules, one of the oldest sports clubs in the Netherlands.

Blink your eyes

On one of the most memorable evenings in Dutch cup football, Tim Pieters (now 22) became one of the standouts on Thursday. Hercules, tenth in the third division (fourth level of the Netherlands), won 3-2 against Ajax in the second round of the KNVB Cup. Sensational. You had to blink your eyes every now and then. Did this really happen? Never before has Ajax lost to an amateur club in the cup tournament. The season was already terrible for the Amsterdam team – director Sven Mislintat gone, coach Maurice Steijn fired, last place in the Eredivisie – but this defied every imagination. A low point in club history.

They had faith in it beforehand at USV Hercules, founded as a cricket club in April 1882. “I would like to say that Ajax is not what it should be at the moment,” coach René van der Kooij said to his players in the preliminary discussion during the sports meal. pale from images. “In fact, Sparta and PEC Zwolle play football more easily than Ajax.”

Van der Kooij saw the poor, wet field in the Galgenwaard stadium – Hercules Sportpark Voordorp was not suitable for such a big match – as an advantage. This made it more difficult for Ajax to destroy the amateurs with fast combination football. And the coach had a clear match plan – then put ‘high’ pressure on Ajax, then drop back compactly. And break out in between with quick attacks.

It all turned out to be true. Gastón Ávila, summer purchase from Ajax worth 12.5 million, is simply passed by on the side after fifteen minutes. He tries to intervene, but fails completely. Top purchase Josip Sutalo (over 20 million) is passed over as if he were not there, after which Pieters can easily score the 1-0. Fifteen minutes into the second half, after a beautiful deep pass from Oussama Lahri, Hercules made it 2-0 with a nice long shot. “We had trained for it, if you have a chance against Ajax you have to shoot,” Pieters says to the camera afterwards.

Hercules’ fighting spirit and drive are wonderful to see. Twice, defender Shanon Carmelia, international of Curaçao, takes a ball off the line in the 70th minute.

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Crazy scenes in the Galgenwaard. With spectators in the stands who can always say they were there, that windy December 21, 2023. With the coach who gets a beer shower during a TV interview, and Ajax players who run off in frustration. After the sad start in the Eredivisie, Ajax seemed to slowly recover under new coach John van ‘t Schip – who was absent on Thursday due to his son’s wedding. But this letdown – just before the winter break – puts everything under pressure again.

Ajax players leave after the defeat. In the background, USV Hercules celebrates the victory.
Photo Gerrit van Keulen/ANP

Pieters says that he lives in a Utrecht student house where some housemates had bet on Hercules winning and that he would score. What exactly they won – it would amount to thousands of euros – was not yet clear on Thursday evening.

He had a deadline for his studies, but finished it in the library on Thursday afternoon. So Pieters can celebrate the victory on Thursday evening. “I think this will spread around the world.” He wondered whether he would not have been better off choosing professional football.

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