The discovery of the season

The discovery of the season

The Ajax Women have existed for exactly one year as of Saturday, 18 may. On their first anniversary, they played the PSV Women at home. Liza van de Most is a fixture in the Ajax Women’s team. Moreover; the 19 year old right back has racked up the most playing time of any of her team mates.

Defend? That was Liza van der Most’s reaction when Ed Engelkes presented his plan to hear earlier this season. The coach wanted to try her out as a right back. It was a plan born of need. Engelkes: “I wanted her to have playing time, but she wouldn’t have gotten many minutes as a right winger. The competition with players like Linda Bakker and Mandy Versteegt was too heavy. So the choice was either to not play very much, or an alternative. Considering that Liza has speed, strength, and a good kick, she had the possibility of playing as a back.”

The 19 year old from Papendrecht could hardly imagine it. She didn’t know anything other than playing in the front line, on the flank. “I had my doubts, since I had never defended before. Yes, co-defended, but not from the back.” At the same time, she saw it as an opportunity. An opportunity to grab a much coveted spot with the club that she very much wanted to play with.

What follows is a change of mindset which, expressed mildly, has worked out very well. While her old bag of tricks gathers dust, she’s fulfilling the role or right back with verve, as if she’s been playing that position for years. Although she didn’t always play a conspicuous role, she was, until her red card against FC Twente, the female Ajax player with the most playing time. She smiles shyly when she is told the statistics. Then she admits that things are going quite well. “I like it, too.” Does she secretly still long for her old position? She shakes her head. The change has worked out too well for that. “Not if I can continue to play like this.”

She is a shadow right back at times. This means that she can storm ahead when there’s room on the right wing. At home against Lierse, she played so deep that she almost forgot that she was a defender. “That freedom makes it interesting for me to be at the back. It wouldn’t be as pleasurable if my only duty would be to take out opponents.”

Van der Most comes from CTO Amsterdam Talent Team, an educational institution for the greatest talents of the Netherlands. She was 16 years old when she left her parental house in Papendrecht to go live in a so-called top sport apartment in Amsterdam Osdorp. There – where she still lives – she grew up quickly. “All of a sudden, you’re living on your own, you need to do your own groceries. I had to get used to that” , says the defender, who continued to play with her former club Stedoco during the weekends.

Since her move to Amsterdam, her life revolves mostly around football. But she still sees an opportunity to spend time on her studies. She’s following an MMZ progra (Social Work), and she’s currently doing an internship in the psychiatric ward of a care centre. When Van der Most reports for training, she’s almost always already worked a full day. At those times, she needs to make a transition. “You get so many impressions during the day, and shortly after that, you’re on the training field. There’s no time to blow off steam, and that would actually be kind of nice to do.”

The things she sees are sometimes difficult. “It affects you to see what a hard time these people have. Some of them say that they’re going home every day, even though they’ve been in the institution for years. It’s quite scary to think that you can decline so much. Especially since it could happen to me, too.”

To conclude, Van der Most admits that her achievements have surpassed her expectations. “I would never have dreamed that I would get to play so much. I didn’t have any expectations when I came here. Even if I’d been sitting on the bench, I wouldn’t have complained.”