Q & A
Football's biggest stars in the hot seat
What was it like scoring your first goal for Holland against Scotland?
It was very great, for my career and national team. It was a very special goal.
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Do you remember a lot about it?
Yeah. It was a very great atmosphere and at half time everybody was singing; a band was playing. It was one of the biggest games that I played.
Did you find that when you got back to Holland people looked at you differently or talked to you differently once you scored that goal?
Yeah – more respect.
Is that important to you, as a footballer?
For me it’s not important. I have respect for everybody, if he plays in the first league or if he doesn’t play football. If I have respect for everybody they give you respect back.
What was Steve McClaren like as a coach?
He was like a friend to me. If I had problems I could always go to him. He’s open for everything, he makes jokes, he knows when you are sad – he can feel everything. He’s very good.
Do you still talk to him now?
Less. I don’t speak a lot with him because he’s very busy and I’m very busy with my family.
Did he ever talk about being England manager?
He told me everything.
You were signed for 8.5 million Euros by Hamburg –
– No, 8.9.
8.9 – was that a surprise to you? Was that a lot of pressure?
I don’t feel pressure. Never. I don’t want to be arrogant, but I never feel pressure.
Is that in all walks of your life?
For what do I have to feel pressure? You’re not going to die. You play a game to enjoy it. First it was your hobby; now it’s your work. Every game that I play I want to enjoy, and not to be scared that I’m going to play a s**t game.
Do you think that with the World Cup, which is so big, you’ll be the same?
Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe this is the first time.
You’re second in the Bundesliga assist league. Do you prefer creating goals or scoring goals?
Both. If I can be important, a playmaker for the team, that’s me.
You’re a father now. Do you think it’s changed you as a person?
Of course. Now I have to take care of my daughter and my girlfriend. It’s very important to me – it’s changed everything. You have to think smart about everything. You have to change your life. You cannot stay long at friends’, and when friends come in you cannot go out with them. You have to be a man in the house; to take care of everything.
Can you tell me about your name Eljero?
My sister loves his [Al Jarreau’s] songs and she loved the name. She said to my mum, “Eljero is a very nice name” and my mum said, “OK, there we go: Eljero.”
So what does this year’s World Cup mean to you personally?
It’s very important. It’s so important to me because now you can show the world – everybody – who you are; what you can do. If you want to make another step in your life then you have to do a good job.
What’s your earliest memory of the World Cup?
The World Cup in America [in 1994]. It was the first World Cup that I saw – I was six. It was great. I was in Suriname on holiday. My nephews watched the games and I was watching too. From that moment I loved football. Before, I played soccer too, but I was not so active. From that moment I wanted to play more actively.
So who was your hero when you where that young?
An out-and-out striker – is that how you would like to be one day? Up front on your own like that?
He was the first striker. I’m outside: the winger; a playmaker.
Would you want to go inside like him?
What do you think Holland’s expectations for the World Cup are?
We have to take the cup.
Do you think you can do it?
Yes. With the players that we have, we have top quality.
How far do you think you’ll go at the World Cup?
Everything is possible in the World Cup. We can beat everybody but we can lose to everybody if we are not sharp. We have a chance – we have to fight.
Who are the most influential or dangerous players in your team, do you think?
Sneijder is very strong. For pace, Robben, Kuyt, Nigel De Jong. We have a lot of very strong players.
Who do you think is the strongest player in the England team?
Gerrard and Defoe. Defoe, I like his style. He’s so smart – he shoots from everywhere. And Gerrard, he has so much power – smart, good first touch, he shoots...
How far do you think England could go at the World Cup?
For England it’s the same as for Holland: very big players. England are a big team and we have to watch out for them.
If Holland won the World Cup, what would be the first thing you’d do when you got back to Holland?
Dance with my baby.
Interview: June 2010.
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