Dutch Football Superstar Edwin Van Der Sar Gives Ahlan! the Lowdown
Welcome to Dubai, what have you been up to here?
I have been spending time on the beach relaxing with my family and eating at nice restaurants. Everytime I was in London I always ate at Zuma, it’s my favourite restaurant. So I took the family there.
Zuma is often good for a celeb spot!
I went two days ago and Janet Jackson was there.
Now that you have retired, would you consider following in the footsteps of Maradona and Sven Goran Eriksson and coach a team in the UAE?
No, good luck to them but I am not really interested in coaching at the moment. After I retired, I moved back to Holland and studied for a masters in Sports Management at the University of Amsterdam and I was lucky enough to be offered the job of Director of Marketing at Ajax football club.
Ajax is the club you started your career at, does it feel like you have now come full circle?
I started my career there and a lot of my ex teammates are there. Frank De Boer is Manager, Marc Overmars is Director of Football, Dennis Bergkamp is Assistant Manager and we will have Jaap Stam next season, so a lot of ex players are working in the organisation mostly on the football side. But I have always had an interest in the commercial side, so I am happy. It’s a great club.
There has been media speculation that Frank De Boer is being lined up as the replacement for Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, is this the case?
Frank has earned himself a strong reputation as a Manager and, as far as I am aware, he is happy at Ajax. He has built a good team and has good people around him.
Do you miss playing?
Of course. There is nothing nicer than putting on your football kit and starting your work day at 10am and just playing. It beats being in an office from 9am.
You are regularly touted by fans and critics alike as one of the all-time goalkeeping greats. Do you agree with this and which goalkeepers do you think are better than you?
There are loads of goalkeepers better than me. I am not one for best this or best that and I am not a guy for the limelight. I prefer being in the background. I like making sure that the team work will together. I mean of course you get the accolades and I take them and it’s nice but that’s not what playing is all about.
You have achieved so much in your career: you have been the most capped player for your country, you have been part of a Champions League winning team twice, first with Ajax and then Manchester United. What has been the highlight of this momentous career?
Winning the Champions League, particularly the last one with Manchester United in 2008. I saved Nicolas Anelka’s last penalty in that moment it was over and the players were applauding and running towards me to congratulate me and you feel you're the guy who’s finished the game
You retired from competitive football aged 40, what is the key to the longevity of your career?
I think it was a combination of things: determination, hard work, the coaching. I was lucky I didn’t pick up a lot of injuries. I retired at the highest level and of course you want to continue, you can maybe take a step down or have another year in the highest level but I wanted to go out on a high and of course we lost the last game I played. (Manchester United lost 3-1 to Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League Final) so not a high but one step below.
Peter Schmeichel left Manchester United in 1999 and Alex Ferguson struggled to replace the great Dane. He actually fielded 10 different goalkeepers until you arrived in 2005, was this daunting in any way... having such big gloves to fill?
No, I was 34 when I went to Man United and I had already had a big career and so was quite relaxed about.
Which players have you felt privileged to play alongside?
I played with Zinedine Zidane at Juventus; he is such a down-to-earth guy and such a great professional. I have played with a lot of good players: Ronaldo, Scholes and Giggs at Man United and the great Frank Rijkaard at Ajax.
At Ahlan!, we are putting together a ladies football team, what are your top tips for becoming a successful team?
To have success you have to be determined! You have to target what you want to aim for and what you want to achieve as a team and just go for it! The key is hard work. It’s not difficult. A certain part is down to skill but if don’t work hard then other teams will become better than you.
Do you think more women are playing football now?
Yes, we have a ladies football team at Ajax now. We started it last year and it’s a league between Holland and Belgium. It has been very successful, we have had more new fans come to the club because of it. We started late, but the women definitely get a lot of support. It is definitely a positive for the club.
Do you think women can play football in the same team as men?
No, I really don’t think so. I think the characteristics of men and women playing football are very different and for them to compete of the same pitch just wouldn’t work because of their differences.