rnw.nl ~ By Jan Marchal
The 2012/2013 Dutch soccer league season kicked off a couple of weeks ago and one player has already caught our attention. Not so much for his brilliant skills, but more for his recent first selection for his native Cameroon national team, the Indomitable Lions. Meet Wille Overtoom, midfielder for Dutch team Heracles Almelo. After a training session last week, he shared his feelings with RNW.
What comes to your mind when you hear ‘Africa’? Africa has opened my eyes. In Europe, people don’t talk much about Africa because it is not very relevant to them. I am expecting a lot joy and happiness from Africa but I also want to give something back to the continent.
You are referring to your selection in the Cameroon national team, the Indomitable Lions. How did that happen? They (The Cameroon Football Federation) called my agent and told him they were building a younger squad and that they had plans for me. It was a good opportunity. I was very surprised they contacted me because Cameroon is an internationally renowned soccer nation. It is an honour to play for them. I was overjoyed and immediately called my parents and my girlfriend to tell them about it. They encouraged me to do it, so it was an easy decision.
You were born in Cameroon but lived in the Netherlands since the age of three with your mother and Dutch stepfather. You therefore grew up as a Dutchman. Would you have preferred playing for the Netherlands? No, I could have turned down the offer to play for Cameroon and waited to be selected in the Dutch squad, but I think I made the right choice.
When was the first time you went back to Cameroon? Last summer, it was good to be there once again. I haven’t visited my hometown yet. I already had a certain image of the country but it was still a shock to see the poverty in which people are living. But I also saw that people are happy with what they have and I think we have a lot to learn from them.
You keep your fans updated on your activities on your blog and Twitter. Where are most of your fans, in the Netherlands or Africa? In the Netherlands, because I am not really well known in Africa. It’s not my objective but if I become popular there, this would mean I am playing well for the national team. And that is always a good thing.
How do your Cameroonian teammates see you, as a Dutchman or a fellow Cameroonian? I think they see me as one of their own. They never talk to me about the Netherlands. We have the same goal which is to win games and in soccer, that’s easy. All we care about is playing and winning trophies. I am more in touch with some players than others. But when we are playing together, it’s one team, one family.
Are you already a regular starter? Last time I made it in the first 18, which is a good thing. I think I made a good impression because I keep getting selected. We have a good squad and the players I talked to told me I was a good player, and that’s always good to hear.
Your career is everything but conventional. You only turned professional at the age of 22 when you joined Heracles Almelo, which is considered a miracle in the world of professional soccer. What kept you going? It was difficult for me to stay motivated and keep the hope that one day I would play for the Eredivisie (the Dutch premier league). Sometimes I felt like giving up and going back to my studies. It was really tough but I’ve always worked hard at all my clubs and I continue to do so.