Multilingual, very approachable and always good for a quote - Dutch football players don’t need much guidance when they meet the press.
“I don’t give them any media training,” says Kees Jansma, veteran football journalist, TV personality and Oranje’s chief press officer. “I don’t watch the interviews with them. I only give them one piece of advice: be as open as possible and think before you talk.”
“It doesn’t mean you constantly have to defend yourself or think ‘What does this journalist want from me?’ Why not change it around and think ‘What can I get across to the consumer, the public, through this journalist? What do I want to say?”
Holland: a strong brand
Nicknamed Clockwork Orange or the Flying Dutchmen, the Netherlands national football team has been a strong brand for four decades, boasting several successive generations of outstanding talent.
Cruyff, Gullit, Van Basten and Sneijder, to name just a few, have become household names around the world.
They’re known as the paragons of Total Football, a phrase coined by legendary Holland coach Rinus Michels, who refined this dynamic and dominant playing style which allows players to quickly switch positions depending on the situation on-field.
Holland have never won a World Cup, but no other nation has come as close so many times.
This short series of articles explores what lies behind Holland’s fame and changing fortunes, focusing on the current generation of Dutch stars led by manager Bert van Marwijk.
Playing abroad has given them plenty of experience in dealing with the press, says Jansma.
"If they want, I’ll even read the articles, but I hardly ever change a story, even if it has a negative slant. Because players need to learn that they’re the ones responsible, and that whatever they say will appear in a newspaper or on the radio. And they accept that."
"I do think our players deserve a compliment for the way they interact with the media and for being so accessible in this extremely hectic world.”
Matches involving the Dutch national squad are major media events, attracting millions of viewers at home and abroad. Hordes of camera crews, radio reporters, newspaper journalists and photographers flock to the training sessions to get their unique quote or shot. Most Holland players are happy to oblige.
Only on rare occasions do they refuse to be interviewed. For fear or being mistranslated or misquoted, Arsenal striker Robin van Persie, for instance, shunned the press when his club got off to a bad start this season. Van Persie remained active on Twitter, though, where he and his Holland teammates enjoy huge followings.
Jansma accepts the decisions players make and says he seldom feels the need to intervene during meetings with the media.
“Ultimately, it’s in my interest too, because it’s my task to present the players and coach in the best possible light. And I think I know how they should be approached."
"Yes/no questions or plain statements, for instance, simply won’t work. They kill communication. You’ll only get a short answer or none at all. And that’s not what you’re after."
"So I sometimes tell journalists - and I hope I’m not too pedantic - to rephrase their questions or put an audible question mark at the end of their statements. This I hope will help both player and journalist, so that in the end everyone has got what they want: a good chat.”