Gregory van der Wiel (23) started the new season on Monday. With Nicolai Boilesen, Christian Eriksen and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson, Ajax’s and the Dutch national team’s right back joined the group once again. He’s been around the world in the last two months. The globetrotter is on the road again this week, during Ajax’s training camp in southern Germany.
Gregory van der Wiel is accustomed to sitting in an airplane. Soon after winning the national championship, he flew to the U.S., Brazil and Uruguay in three weeks. The practice trips with Ajax (Washington DC and Portland), and the Dutch team (South America) were just a warm up for his holiday travels. Compared his many hours logged above the clouds, the first trip of the new season (Amsterdam – Nuremberg) was a piece of cake for Van der Wiel. Strangely enough, the meagre 660km trip was the most challenging of all. “This was the worst flight of all. The delays and turbulence made it tough.”
Clearly, Van der Wiel enjoyed his holidays. His four free weeks brought him, via Curacao, to Miami and Las Vegas. After that, he visited the pristine white beaches of Bali and the Bahamas. There’s no better way to unwind for the 24 time international. “I love exploring the world”, says the defender after the first training in Germany. “It’s not my style to stay put in one place. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to relax in some beautiful places last month.”
Van der Wiel talks to us exactly one year after the defeat to Spain in the World Cup final. The right wing defender is reminded of that several times during his first day on duty in the 2011-2011 season. “This year has flown by. I’ve thought about the World Cup a few times today. Those were great weeks, but it was also disappointing because of the final. But a year later, I still have many great memories.”
Twelve months after the final in South Africa, the defender participates in his first practice of the season with Ajax. He takes part in the group training on the fields of SG Quelle Fürth. After that, he works with Nicolai Boilesen, Christian Eriksen, Eyong Enoh and Kolbeinn Sigthórsson on a special course with fitness trainer René Wormhoudt. Van der Wiel goes through the exercises with ease. “I trained on my own during my holidays. I regularly went running and did stability training. I didn’t want to just let go. Now I can be reasonably fit with the rest of the group.”
It’s obvious that Van der Wiel is eager to start the new season. “Those four weeks did me good. It was great that the coach granted me that rest that I needed after a long season (and after effects of the World Cup). I loved seeing the boys the morning at the club. It was good to catch up and look forward to the new season together. With the newcomers, we are definitely a step ahead for the coming season compared to the championship season. We’ll be stronger as a team. Especially now that we’re with Frank de Boer from the beginning now, for the preparations. He’s going to make us all better. Our aim for the new season is simple: become champions again.”