The 2012-2013 season marks the third championship season in a row. It was the year in which Viktor Fischer definitely broke through, and Daley Blind was voted Ajax Player of the Year. In the shadow of the 32nd national title, there are several players who, for various reasons, also had a very special year. We feature these players this week. In this edition: Joël Veltman.
Joël Veltman looks back with satisfaction on the football season gone by. The 21 year-old Ajax player was part of the selection almost every week. The defender also started a few times and earned quite some playing time. It’s no coincidence that coach Frank de Boer had been priming him to be the successor of Toby Alderweireld, who may be leaving the club.
“It makes a difference that the coach knows me from A1. He knows what I can do well, and what I need to work on. He says I’m ready, and that’s how I feel, too. If he calls on me, then I’ll be ready. Preparations for the upcoming season will be important for me. I need to show that I can fill that spot.”
With Jaap Stam’s arrival – he joins Ajax’s technical staff this summer – Veltman will soon be able to draw first hand on the knowledge and experience of the Dutch national team’s former central duo. “I’ve already trained under Stam for six months, and learned a lot of useful things from him then: for example, what do you do with your hands during a duel, and more things that you can do to give a centre forward a very hard time. Stam radiates experience. I still remember that we were training in the hall and Tom Boere – former centre forward from Jong Ajax, among others, and who’s now playing for AA Gent in Belgium – said to Stam during a physical exercise: whoa, slow down. I’m looking forward to working with Stam and will drag him outside too, so to speak.”
In contrast to Stam in his best days, Veltman is no bruiser. “Although I love to duel, sometimes in the air too. Forcing a ball over the sideline or handing out a tick is sometimes necessary. On the other side, if you can position yourself better than the other guy, you can avoid a lot of that. I do sometimes lose header duels, but because my timing and jumping power are good, I can aim well with my headers. Sometimes you just need to be smart and give a shove at the right time, preventing someone from jumping.”
Despite his elegant defensive style, Veltman realises that in today’s top footbal, big muscles are also necessary. “That’s why I’ve gained four kilos and I want to add six kilos to that. I’m following an individual program and I’m trying to get stronger over my entire body.”
Moreover, the ever self-critical Veltman knows that there are still areas he can improve on. “I often play 89 of the 90 minutes very well, but then I get sloppy. That has to stop. I need to be merciless in every match, because a moment of doubt can be fatal.”
It’s therefore no surprise that the Velsen native’s big role model is Carlos Puyol (FC Barcelona). “He exudes a winner’s mentality and I love to see that. Next to him, I think Gerard Piqué is a great defender and I like guys like Marco Materazzi.” What Veltman shares with them is his great professionalism, and desire to improve. It’s no surprise that the talented player will be doing the necessary work during the summer break as well. “After my ligament injury, I’ve noticed that it’s good to keep training during the holidays and to do things for yourself. If it would be required, I’d even give up my holidays, because at the end of the day, I need make sure I’m ready.”