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Black History Month: My Football Icon with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

11 October 2022

They say to never meet your heroes, but when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had the chance to work alongside his during his playing days, and his first interaction with Frank Rijkaard.

“When I went with the Dutch national team in ’98 to the World Cup, he was one of the coaches for Guus Hiddink,” he recalled. “The first game against Belgium, I was in the team and I played, but the second game against Mexico, I was on the bench and in the last 10 minutes I came in and didn’t play as well as I shouldn’t have.

“After the game, he came up to me and gave me a quiet telling off. At the time, I had to really adjust myself and take it. It was the best thing that could’ve happened to me. Things happen in football and you have to be a big boy about it.

“He’s somebody that I still really respect and looked up to as a young boy. He’s won a lot as a coach and as a player.”

As part of Black History Month, the former Burton Albion and Queens Park Rangers boss paid tribute to his football icon.

The elder Dutchman started his career at Hasselbaink’s local Club, Ajax, and first captured his attention.

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“We lived five miles from the stadium, more or less,” he explained. “He was playing in midfield or at the back as a centre-half. His presence was just so amazing.

“He was like the Rolls-Royce that you have now – somebody like van Dijk with that stature, but better and more powerful. He was my favourite player at that time.”

Although Hasselbaink had a flare for scoring goals during his career, he took his inspiration from the Amsterdam-born midfielder who went on to play in Portugal and Italy before returning to the Netherlands with Ajax.

“What made him so special was his presence, his passing and his toughness,” he noted. “He was the link and he stopped all of the counter-attacks. From there, he went to Sporting CP and had a magnificent career at AC Milan.

“I became a striker, and he was more of a defensive kind of player, but he was just a hero for me. He had an impact on my career because of how he played, how he showed his confidence, and how impressive he was in the team.

“When he did interviews, he didn’t say a lot and he was quite a quiet person but when he crossed that white line, he let go. He was always a leader, and you could always feel that he was there.”


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