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Willem: My agony, my future

Posted on 11 October 2001  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

There was a touching, family moment amidst the professional grind of the Premiership at Spurs Lodge last week.

A pretty young lady turned the corner with a young boy in her arms. Suddenly, the boy saw his daddy and rushed to him, and daddy responded with a huge hug. Soon all three were together.

But it was moment with a hidden story.

A few days later the footballing world was told the news that 'daddy' and family had known for some time - he had been forced to retire from the game at the age of 26 because of recurrent hip problems.

A couple of days further down the line and Willem Korsten was back at the training ground.

After a summer of torment, the reality appeared to have sunk in.

How did he take the news initially? "I was absolutely gutted," he admitted. "But what can you do? The first thing I thought was 'this can't be it' and you look for other things and other options but now there is no other option but to stop playing.

"The thing is that after the operation the surgeon was very clear on what he found.

"In the back of your mind you think 'this is never going to happen to me, it always happens to someone else' so I still had hope. I saw a few other specialists and they all said the same.

"At that stage you have to ask 'is it right to continue?' but I didn't think there was a choice.

"I just have to follow the specialist's advice, however hard that is. I have to think about my future and my health and this is it.

"If I'd tried to battle on it would have only made things worse.

"There was talk about artificial limbs and I thought 'hang on, this isn't what I want to be thinking about'.

"At first I wanted to see other people to make sure it wasn't a one-off decision. But no, top specialists have all said the same, so there wasn't a lot left for me to do."

What he will do, in the short-term, is spend more time with his family - his wife Lieselot and son Philip.

"It has been a very lively two and a half years so now we'll spend some time together," he said. "Family is most important to me but this is my career and I do think about it.

"It's what I've done every day and then suddenly I was told I had to stop.

"At first my world collapsed but then I started thinking that there are more things in the world. It doesn't make it less hard but it makes you reflect on things a little differently."

Unfortunately, Willem will always been seen as the player who didn't quite fulfil his potential at Spurs.

Ironically, he had started to find some real direction at the club under Glenn Hoddle and his new manager's belief that 'there is a player there waiting to come out' certainly seemed to be realised at the end of last season when he scored a memorable double against Manchester United.

Willem added: "I'd never looked forward to a pre-season more than this season because I finished quite well last season and we had a new manager, new plans and I was looking forward to being a part of it.

"Then this happened three weeks into pre-season. I couldn't believe it. But life goes on."

So what was next? Would he stay in the game? "I might," he pondered. "I think coaching young kids is very rewarding so I might do that. Not at the top level, but at the amateur level. I would really like that."

Whatever path he takes next, it's safe to say that we speak on behalf of everyone in football when we wish him the best of luck.

By Paul Miles