About twenty years ago, Barry Sneijder travelled from his hometown Utrecht to Amsterdam a few times a week. His oldest son, Jeffrey (28) was a pupil at Ajax’s youth development program. Later, middle son Wesley followed in his two year older brother’s footsteps. Father Sneijder’s duties were almost impossible to manage when his youngest, Rodney, chose Ajax instead of Feyenoord.
While Jeffrey saw his football dream falter due to numerous injuries, Wesley grew into an international star via Ajax, Real Madrid and Internazionale. Twenty year old Rodney had also turned his hobby into his profession and has joined Ajax 1’s selection. The midfielder, who’s had his driving license for two years, is grateful to his father for the many rides over the years. “My dad knows the A2 inside out”, he says with a laugh. “When you look at what it delivered, I guess the ‘old man’ can’t complain too much. Those rides weren’t in vain.”
Sneijder, who played with Jong Ajax until last season, has found his groove among the big boys. “We train hard, but I can definitely keep up. Moreover, it’s nice that I’ve known some of the guys for a while now. It’s a tight group in any case. There’s a lot of laughing, hard training, and everyone gets along.”
The young Utrecht native will focus on left midfield. “I’ve played there for a few years.” He’s not intimidated by the fact that there is quite a bit of competition for that spot. “Competition’s always good, it keeps you sharp. If you play at a club like Ajax, you’re used to competition. They’re all good football players, so I need to do my very best.”
Watching Sneijder train, it looks like he has what it takes. “I have a good example with Wes”, he says, referring to his brother Wesley. “I want to reach the top and you need to train hard and make sacrifices. I watch my nutrition and I train extra when I can. I’m going to do whatever it takes to succeed with Ajax.”
The team from Amsterdam are in southern Germany this week. Frank de Boer’s team are going to play a practice match against FC Nürnberg. The meeting will put the national champions to the test. “It will definitely be tough”, says Sneijder, looking ahead to the match. “The Germans are known for their physical game and pounding. Above all, it’s a Bundesliga club, so they can definitely play a good game. We’ll have to be sharp, but it’s a good test. If we let the ball go and play between the lines, they’ll have a hard time, I think.”
Finally, Sneijder talks about his ambitions for the coming year. “I’d like to stay with the selection and get lots of playing time in Eredivisie. And, of course, become champion. There’s a lot of potential in the group and the level is very high. The older guys are fantastic and the young ones are keeping up. You can see that they can play good football, too.”