UEFA.com spoke to Netherlands Under-17 star Thom Haye about learning "the Dutch way" of playing, his route to the international setup and life with his club, AZ Alkmaar.
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The Netherlands may be without a major trophy in 24 years, but the Oranje nevertheless maintain a mystique of playing in a particular style which reached its zenith with the infancy of 'Total Football' in the 1970s. UEFA.com spoke to Thom Haye, a member of Albert Stuivenberg's squad at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Slovenia, about continuing that tradition, his rise to the international scene and life with his club, AZ Alkmaar.
UEFA.com: When did you first become involved with the Dutch international setup?
Thom Haye: In the Netherlands we have a youth plan based around six districts. When you are U15, so 14 years old, there is the chance to switch over to the national team depending on your ability. Each district has its own U15 team but if you are special, you can go to the national team. I have been involved since the start and a member of the squad at U15, U16 and U17 level.
UEFA.com: Do you ever have anything to do with the senior Dutch team?
Haye: We train in different places but before this tournament we did have three days training at our head office in Zeist, which is where they would train as well.
UEFA.com: It must be an inspiration to work where such illustrious players train?
Haye: The thing that is special for me is that I know the other players in our squad. Each time we meet each other, whether at the head office or in a hotel somewhere, it's great to see each other and play against other teams.
UEFA.com: The Dutch have a tradition of attacking football – do you feel a responsibility to carry that forward as you are the next generation?
Haye: It starts not with the association but even with your clubs. The clubs teach you to play football in the Dutch way. That's where you learn it and that's what you grow up with.
UEFA.com: How about AZ, when did they first discover you?
Haye: I was playing for an amateur club in Amsterdam when I was 11 years old. A scout came and saw me and I was invited by AZ to train and to play a game. They were impressed enough for me to join AZ and I have been with them now for six years.
UEFA.com: How much has it helped your development as a player to be at such a prestigious club?
Haye: Firstly, I have had the opportunity to work with people who have a lot of experience. The training is on a higher level and the facilities, of course, are very professional.
UEFA.com: Do you have any contact with the first team on a daily basis?
Haye: I am playing now for AZ's U19s. The higher the level you are playing at, the closer you get to the first team. Sometimes I can talk with the senior players and the head coach as well.
UEFA.com: Are you enjoying the tournament?
Haye: So far it's very good. One of the most important reasons is because it's a very lovely country and we have met lovely people. Of course, though, winning the first match [3-1 against Slovenia] was very important for us.