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Where Did Virgil Van Dijk Grow Up and How It Shaped Him as a Player

Where Did Virgil Van Dijk Grow Up and How It Shaped Him as a Player

Virgil van Dijk has won all major trophies at Liverpool but he did not have it easy growing up in the streets of Breda.

Breda is the ninth largest city in the Netherlands with defensive boundaries built many centuries ago to protect it from outside threat.

As a child Virgil was obsessed with football and played it whenever he could – be it on the street, in cages or on the field. In an interview with Nike, VVD recounts –

I was born in Breda, but it’s the things I’ve overcome on my journey from there that have made me the player I am today.

The first football club Van Dijk joined was a Dutch youth football team WDS’19, with his dad Ron taking him to the training session.

His trainer at that club, Rik Kleyn noticed signs of a budding elite footballer in the little Virgil because of the level of effort and dedication he showcased despite not being the gigantic figure he is now –

I could see that already his whole life was about football. He was not a leader and not the biggest kid, he was actually quite slow, but he was 100 percent committed. His father would take him to the games all the time and to me they seemed close  back then, so I am surprised he no longer has his name on his shirt.

The Dutchman had joined the youth academy of Dutch team Willem II at the age of 8, but had to also focus on making money to support his own needs.

Van Dijk suffered a difficult phase after turning 11 because problems started escalating between his father Ron van Dijk and mother Hellen Chin fo Sieeuw – who separated and Virgil’s mom was forced to look after the family after his dad walked out on them.

Despite his personal troubles, Virgil was a joyous figure among his friend circle as his ex-schoolmate from the Driezwing junior school, Mitchell de Waard recalled –

Virgil was a nice guy and very funny. It was when he was around nine that girls started noticing him. They would be chasing him all the time. He stood out because he was one of the only boys with dark skin and they loved his haircut.

While the Dutch defender continued his youth football career, he didn’t exactly have a lot of money in his teen years.

Virgil has since revealed that he had worked as a dishwasher to on the side because his mother couldn’t afford to give him money while he was developing his skills as a footballer.

He told The Overlap in 2022 –

I was 16 or 17 and I didn’t have a contract at the time. I wanted to sometimes go for a drink or get McDonald’s, this type of stuff when you’re young. You need to get a little bit of money because my mum didn’t have enough money to just give it to me, so I got a job at one of the local restaurants and started to work as a dishwasher. I trained Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday I was a dishwasher, Thursday and Friday I trained, Saturday I played and Sunday I was a dishwasher.

The owner of the restaurant where he used to wear as a dishwasher, Jacques Lips, was super impressed with how good Virgil with his dishwashing skills and actually urged him to stay on and make it a profession than pursue a footballing career –

He was a good worker. He would scrub hard and do his job properly. He was always here on the two busiest nights of the week. He was training hard to try and become a professional and had joined the academy of neighbours Willem II. After work, his dad always used to pick him up. I would often tell him he should wash more pots and stop trying to become a professional player.

Stay here, Virgil, I used to say. ‘Here you have the opportunity at least to earn a few quid’. He has absolutely made it and I hold my hands up. He deserves everything he is getting.Nobody at this place has ever forgotten Virgil. He was a great lad. In fact, we’ve always kept his name and phone number in our work book for temps.His name and number is still there. I’ve tried to call him. No not to ask him to come back, I just want to congratulate him.

Fortunately, Van Dijk did not listen to Jacques’ calls to end his football dream and got his first professional contract at the age of 18 after signing for Willem II.

He played one season for their youth team before being signed by Groningen in 2010. It only took him about a year to move into their senior team, after which he spent a few seasons at the club before being signed by Celtic in 2013.

The rest, as they say, is history. After a few fruitful years at Celtic, Van Dijk was signed by Southampton in 2015 – before his impressive displays for the Premier League side forced Liverpool to dish out £75 million to sign him in 2017.