Veteran Dutch trainer Foppe de Haan has announced he will retire from coaching when his contract as national youth teams co-ordinator for the Royal Netherlands Football Association (KNVB) expires in the summer.
"I will quit as a front-line soldier, as a first-team coach," explained the 65-year-old. "My contract expires in July, then a new cycle starts for the young Oranje and that's something you have to commit to for a longer period. But I'm at an age when I need some freedom. Actually I just want to be free and don't want all that travelling any more. The decision was made after a lot of thinking."
Born on 26 June 1943 in Lippenhuizen, De Haan turned to coaching after a modest career as a footballer and despite training to be a teacher. Since 1985, his name has been synonymous with SC Heerenveen, the club he first served as an assistant and head of youth development. In 1992, he was appointed first-team coach and remained in that post until the summer of 2004, becoming the longest-serving coach at a single club in the Dutch professional game.
With De Haan in the dugout, the Friesland outfit earned promotion to the Eredivisie in 1993 and finished as high as second in 1999/2000, opening the door to the UEFA Champions League the following season. "The club is deep inside me," he recalled. "Together with all the people of Heerenveen, we created a real football bastion and that makes me very proud. We even reached the Champions League."
De Haan's next port of call was the Netherlands Under-21 side, with whom he became a national hero by winning the UEFA European U21 Championship in 2006 and 2007. "The European titles and reaching the Olympic Games [last summer] were also highlights in my career," he stated, before expressing regret at the failure to qualify for this summer's U21 finals and his team's quarter-final exit in Beijing. "That's something that bothered me for a while, but looking back I can only be satisfied with my career."
De Haan now intends to find a back-seat role in the sport. "My wife always says football is my big hobby, and I turned my hobby into my job," he explained. "I want to keep my hobby. So if, for instance, Heerenveen asked me to do something and it's something I'm able to do and that would bring me pleasure, then I would consider that."
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