Winston Bogarde has picked up a £2.1m annual salary at Stamford Bridge without playing a game since December 2000. Ernst Bouwes met Dutch football's forgotten man
In the week when Dutch football was in a state of panic – there were serious doubts that we could beat Scotland – a new TV sports programme, Wachten op Holland Sport, had a remarkable item. Host Matthijs van Nieuwkerk praised Winston Bogarde, said he should be back in Dick Advocaat’s squad and recounted the depressing situation Bogarde is in at Chelsea. “Bogarde is a forgotten hero,” said Van Nieuwkerk.
The journalist is one of the few Dutch football fans bothered about Bogarde these days. The country had other worries, one of them being the possible decay of Dutch football, although that will now be postponed until after Euro 2004. The victory over Scotland was also the end of an era in which Bogarde had a role. It began at another play-off game – in 1995 at Anfield against Ireland – that Holland won, with a majority of black players in the team for the first time. “That was the game in my career I was most proud of,” says Bogarde. It was the beginning of De Kabel (the Surinam expression for a bunch of good friends). In Amsterdam against Scotland the de kabel era ended – Patrick Kluivert and Clarence Seedorf were on the bench while Edgar Davids played (magnificently) to serve Wesley Sneijder, the possible new star.
Bogarde still has plenty of personal pride, despite his life at Chelsea. “Whatever people say or do, I will play at Chelsea until the end of my contract.” Last year the word went around that PSV Eindhoven were interested in taking him as Guus Hiddink was convinced he needed an experienced defender. “It would be great to play for PSV,” was Bogarde’s reaction. “But only if they pay my full salary.”
Aware that many hate this sort of outlook among the modern, ultra-rich professionals, Bogarde tried to explain his motivation. “A contract is a contract. I signed the contract Chelsea offered.” It was Gianluca Vialli, back in the summer of 2000, who was so generous. “I admit: it is a great deal. I am committed to Chelsea and I will do the utmost to play in the first team. I will do that until the last day of my contract. And I mean that literally. As far as I am concerned, Chelsea are committed to pay me the salary they offered me.”
Bogarde considers himself an honest person. “And in contrast to what people think of me, I’m not a guy who makes trouble. People only get into trouble with me when they are dishonest. You can look back on my career and find that every conflict I was involved in has its origin in dishonesty. And the world of football is a world of lying and cheating. Nobody can deny that.”
Bogarde thinks the situation he is in “is very, very hard”. “First they didn’t give me a squad number, then I had to train with the youngsters. But what they apparently don’t know is that these things make me stronger. I’m even more determined now to stay here until my contract ends. But I must also admit that it isn’t easy. What helps is the attitude that I must be ready, at any moment, to play in the first team. That is what my contract says and that is what I try to do. So I train hard and when the coach asks for me I will be ready.”
Yet Bogarde talks about the end of his career in almost religious terms. “I often have the feeling that I am stuck in some kind of tunnel, that I’m wearing a straitjacket. All my movements are limited. I can’t move, can’t turn over, can’t even look back. So I walk on, on to the light, to the end of the career, to freedom.”
A comfortable retirement could be just seven months away, when his contract expires – three and a half years after his last league game, on Boxing Day 2000.
From WSC 203 January 2004. What was happening this month