Made in Holland- the Patrick Zwaanswijk Way

Patrick Zwaanswijk paraded his talents in professional football as a player with Ajax Juniors, Utrecht FC, Oita Trinita, NAC Breda and Central Coast Mariners for nearly 20 years and is now trying to make an impact on Australian football in the coaching ranks.

In his time with the Mariners, he was one of the outstanding central defenders in the A- League and was selected in the A- League Team of the season in his maiden season, 2010/11.

All  those years in the Eredivisie with Utrecht and NAC Breda enabled him to rub shoulders with opponents like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez in European competition while playing with stars like Dirk Kuyt and Richard Witschge.

He has held a number of coaching jobs since retiring from professional football at the Mariners in 2013 and at the moment  is overseeing youth development at Hills United while contemplating his future in Australian football.

In this interview with Roger Sleeman, Patrick  Zwaanswijk reflects on his playing career and espouses his views on youth development and the pathway of Australian football.



What was your background in Dutch football?


I was born into a football family in the Amsterdam suburb of Haarlem where the game is a way of life.

At the age of 14, I played in an inter- regional competition against Ajax and Feyenoord and eventually made the Ajax u/18 team which was influenced by Johan Cruyff and Louis Van Gaal who was the head coach of the club.

I played in the youth team from 1995-98  and in this time we won the Champions League in 1995 and were runners up in 1996.

After Van Gaal left for Barcelona in 1997, Morton Olsen came to Ajax and brought in a lot of foreign players which made it very hard for the youth team players to graduate to the senior squad.

Eventually, I joined Utrecht at the age of 22 where I spent five and a half  seasons and played in two Dutch Cup Finals.


While you were at Utrecht, Bobby Robson came to see you play with the intention of signing you for Newcastle United.

Can you explain the background to this event?


In 2002, one of my teammates at Utrecht, David Mendez Da Silva, was being looked at by an agent in a game against Sparta Rotterdam and I played really well that day. A scout came to view me again in an away game and Bobby Robson followed .

Subsequently, Robson made an offer to buy me but Han Berger refused the offer.

At the time, we had Dirk Kuyt and some Belgian internationals in the squad , had just won the Dutch Cup, were 5th in the League but I was told they wanted to keep the squad intact.

Dirk Kuyt moved on and Berger went to Japan to manage OitaTrinta who also had Richard Witschge in the team.

I followed Berger to Japan.


After one season in Japan, you returned to Holland to play with Ante Milic’s former club, NAC Breda.

Can you relate that experience?


I played at Breda in the middle of the defence with Rob Penders and we became known as “the Twin Towers “.

The club had quality players and we always finished in the top 6-7 in the Eredivisie as well as competing in the Champions League and Europa League competitions.

However, at the age of 35, I  realised the club was looking for younger players so my future was uncertain.


What were the circumstances which led to your signing by Central Coast Mariners in 2010?


Graham Arnold was told about me by a few former players he knew from Breda so he made me an offer which would give me an opportunity to play in a new country for the rest of my career.

The decision paid off because we made the A-League grand final in the 2010/11 season, only to lose the match to Brisbane Roar , due to that contentious decision made in favour of Besart Berisha.

However, I received a great honor when I was selected in the A-League team of the year.

In the 2011/12 season we won the Premier’s Plate but were defeated in the semi-final , and in 2012/13 we were neck and neck for the season with the Wanderers before they won the Premier’s Plate.

We won in the grand final and I managed to score a goal which meant at the age  of 37, I decided to leave the game at a high point.


How did you rate the A-League when you were playing in it?


It was physical ,and at the Mariners, the players had great mentality and a willingness to work hard.

I was fortunate to be at the Mariners with the Golden Generation and Arnold wanted me to be their leader.

Players of the calibre of Ryan, Sainsbury, Wilkinson, Rogic, Duke , Ibini, Simon and Amini were a pleasure to play with and most of them progressed to great heights in their careers which vindicated the standard of the A-League at the time.


How do you compare youth development in Australia with that of Holland?


Critically, in Holland it’s free.

Technically, young Australian players are as capable as their Dutch counterparts .

However,  from a total development standpoint, they are worlds apart.

In Australia there is a set program and the players aren’t prepared physically, tactically and for superior decision making whilst in Holland players are taught these facets of the game at an early stage in their development.

There is definitely a structural problem here with too many conflicting philosophies and the absence of an effective talent scout system ,also means the best players don’t always come through the system.


You were involved with the Olyroos and the u/19’s.

How did you rate these players?


I was assistant coach under Gary Van Egmond for the u/19’s and up to three months before the Olympics.

Players like Metcalfe, Glover , Tilio,  Atkinson and Bacchus were still in development but performed well in Japan.

Atkinson’s move to Hearts was positive as he is in a country where there is no language barrier and Metcalfe’s imminent move to St Pauli will bear fruit when the club is promoted to the Bundesliga.

For these young players, they are leaving a country where football is number five compared to European countries where the sport is number one which can only contribute to their success.


You were employed by Wanderers as an assistant coach in September, 2020.

What was your experience of that?


I was assistant coach to Jean- Paul de Marigny but we never coached together because three weeks into the season , his services were terminated.

When Carl Robinson and Kenny Miller were appointed as the head coaches, I formed a good working relationship with them.

I took over the role of A- League youth coach and we finished second in the League.

We played the same formation as the first team and nine of the players from the youth pool gained contracts on scholarships. Also, I played an important role in development and mentoring.

However, CEO, John Tsatsimas, rang me at the completion of my contract to advise my contract wouldn’t be renewed due to Covid.

This was even after Carl Robinson had commented I was the best coach out of Labinot Haliti, Kenny Miller and myself.


Why are the Wanderers experiencing such turbulent times?


The truth is, they won’t return to greatness until they make major changes and the recent publicity surrounding the replacement of Mark Rudan ,when he was caretaker coach, by Ufuk Talay was an example of the uncertainty existing.

The appointment of Rudan to a full time position will hopefully be a positive.


Who are the people in Australian football you have been most impressed with?


I’ve always held the highest respect for Graham Arnold, especially at the Mariners and when he was assistant to Guus Hiddink and Pim Verbeek for World Cups.

The former F.A. Technical Director, Rob Sherman  ,who I did my A-Licence under was a man who was in the game for the right reasons but unfortunately was critical of the F.A. setup and didn’t think he could implement his ideas.

However, the man I believe should be centre stage in Australian football is the game’s most decorated player, Craig Johnston.

He loves Australia and is so passionate about youth development.

Craig has been accepted all around the world by people like Cruyff and Klinsmann for his training methods and skills development , yet Australia still hasn’t allowed him to influence the game in a profound way.

Western United home games on the move

Western United Regional Football Facility

Western United will stage home games in Tarneit, as the long-awaited move to the West of Melbourne takes shape.

Wyndham City Council said on Tuesday that construction of the Regional Football Facility in Tarneit is nearly finished, allowing Western United to move in and begin preparations for the first home games.

Western United fans have supported the club throughout its history and will be able to see the country’s top footballers in their own neighbourhood in 2024.

The Liberty A-League Women’s home game against the Newcastle Jets on Sunday, March 17 is scheduled to be the first match, followed by the NPL Victoria and Isuzu UTE A-League Men fixtures.

Western United and Western Melbourne Group (WMG) Chairman Jason Sourasis described this as a turning point for the club, stating that everyone will be working tirelessly to be ready to host games as soon as possible.

“This is a momentous milestone for everyone involved in the project. It allows us to move into our permanent home, playing out of only the second rectangular stadium in the state of Victoria that is approved to play A-League Men and A-League Women games,” he stated via press release.

“The next phase of growth for Western United Football Club will be underpinned by a community and fan-first philosophy as we entrench our football club into the Wyndham community and grow our own brand empathy within the fastest-growing municipality in Australia.

“I thank everyone that has been on this journey for their unwavering belief, effort, support and patience.”

Western United Liberty A-League Women Head Coach Kat Smith expressed her excitement about playing in front of the Green and Black crowd in the first match at Tarneit.

“It’s such a privilege for myself, the players and all the fans who’ve joined our journey of building a football club to share this significant milestone of moving into our new headquarters and playing a home match for the very first time,” she added via press release.

“I’m extremely impressed with the facility, the equality in its design shows the respect the Club and our partners have for our A-League women and how invested they are in building an amazing future for female football.

“The girls will be absolutely buzzing to be playing in this historic opening match in Tarneit, we can’t wait.”

Wyndham City Council remains a key backer of Western United, with plans to build a cutting-edge stadium that will serve as a football home for cities throughout the West.

Western United and Wyndham City will provide as many updates as possible on confirmed matchdays, activities, and ticketing information for the Regional Football Facility. 

AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 achieves global broadcast appeal

The AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 successfully managed to cover the Group Stage matches with almost 60 media partners and more than 120 channels providing enthralling action featuring Asia’s top 24 teams for viewers around the world.

By already securing its place as the most extensively covered and accessible edition ever for television right to over 160 territories, the Group Stage games was the first time it marked its broadcast in markets other than Asia, including the USA, Europe, Latin America and Africa.

With Vietnam being one of the best performing markets – over 200 million TV reach watching the Group Stage matches on VTV5 and other local channels – it represents an 84% increase in TV ratings from 2019 edition.

Having not participated in the competition since 2007, Indonesia returned to the AFC Asian Cup and also qualified to the Knockout Stage for the first, drawing a colossal 154 million TV reach on RCTI and various other domestic channels.

Viewership saw a huge leap on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC)’s digital engagement in the global aspect, as for the views of the highlights for the Group Stage on YouTube was up 120% from the whole of the 2019 tournament.

AFC General Secretary Datuk Seri Windsor John mentioned this growth via press release:

“The preliminary eye-catching TV viewership figures reinforce the growing demand for AFC football and reiterates the world-class platform of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 for our players, teams and passionate fans alike,” he said.

“In addition to a truly global audience outreach so far, we look forward towards working hand in hand with our valued media and broadcast partners as we strive to scale the volume of TV coverage and engage with the hundreds of millions of Asian football fans like never before.”

Meanwhile, sponsorships proved to be huge factor for the competition, Qatar Airways, having served as the highest quality FIFA partner since 2017, and Visit Saudi signed on the dotted line as official global partners ahead of the tournament, also VISA tagged along as a regional sponsor.

It will be expected the 2027 Asian Cup in Saudi Arabia will undoubtedly take the competition to new heights as well.

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