The Daily Mirror yesterday reported on Jan Vertonghen’s acceptance speech upon being presented with the Eredivisie player of the year award. The award was given to Vertonghen for his performances last season whilst captaining Ajax, what was unusual about the ceremony however was the Belgium player’s revelation about his time at the Dutch club, his fathers death, and its impact on his footballing career.
While the Mirror decided a pun in the headline was appropriate, the ceremony itself was one rife with tears. Vertonghen and his mother shared the stage and as she presented him the award the pair began to tear up while Jan recalled how his fathers death acted as a motivation for him. “I have gone through difficult times. When I was 20, the manager at Ajax decided to loan me to a small club and I felt I was not going to make it at the top level.” the club in question was RKC Waalwijk, now of playing in the Eredivisie. “Exactly at that time my dad became critically ill. I got a call from Belgium and they said it was urgent. I had to get home.”
“If your dad jumps off a roof and commits suicide, it must be a shock. In our situation it was the opposite.” Vertonghen later dedicated the award to his late father, “I was six when his illness was diagnosed. For 14 long years I knew he was going to die. And every day of those 14 years I had to live with those emotions. He was such a great dad”
There is plenty of motivation then for the 25 year old who ended his speech on a humbling note, “I wish he could see where I am now. I wish he could see I am a player at Tottenham Hotspur, a massive club in the Premier League. He would be so proud and I can only hope he can see things from somewhere above.”