The FA WSL will have its own fleet of vans this summer, with five Dutch players representing clubs in the league, four of which with ‘van’ in their name…
She Kicks caught up with one of them, Arsenal Ladies’ Danielle van de Donk, and what you are presented with is a confident young woman who is striving to be the best she can be for both club and country.
The 24-year-old midfielder was relaxing with Dutch international teammate Sari van Veenendaal and fellow new signing Fara Williams at the club’s training ground, before Kieran Theivam pulled her aside for a quick chinwag.
Having joined the North London club from Swedish side Göteborg FC (or Gothenburg as we commonly know it), van de Donk comes with a wealth of experience having already amassed almost 50 caps for her country since making her debut in 2010.
Injuries to key players in midfield was an issue last season, so the dynamic midfielder will add further competition to the Arsenal team, something teammate Jordan Nobbs described as ‘great for the club.’
But what was it that attracted her to Arsenal?
“It’s so professional here, everything here is amazing,” she said.
“Pedro (Losa) has put a lot of trust in me and I have already been embraced like a member of the family, which is great.”
With van Veenendaal and Dominique Jansen already at the club, van de Donk will have some familiar faces around her this season.
When asked if she and her fellow countrywomen had tried to encourage their teammates to absorb some Dutch culture, the former PSV midfielder said it had come with mixed results.
“We tried to get them to listen to some Dutch music, but that’s not a hit,” she chuckled.
“They do like Dutch cookies though, which we have brought over already.”
Joking aside, the Dutch trio will have a key part to play for Arsenal this season if they are to try and win their first title in four years, their last coming in 2012 under now Seattle Reign Head Coach, Laura Harvey.
But they won’t be the only players representing the Netherlands, with Liverpool having signed national team captain Mandy van den Berg and forward Shanice van de Sanden.
With the Dutch hosting the European Championships next year, van de Donk believes playing in the FAWSL and other top leagues can only be beneficial.
“This league is getting stronger because there are more nationalities in the competition, I think players see it as being a high level,” she said.
“I think if I can prove myself at a high level, then I can be one of the best players, which is amazing for me.”
As mentioned, the Dutch will be hosting Euro 2017 next year, but they have the small matter of some Olympic qualifiers approaching, which will see van de Donk’s Netherlands compete with Norway, Sweden and Switzerland for the last remaining place in Rio.
The mini competition comes as a result of England not being able to participate with Team GB after their third place finish in Canada, so the four next best-placed teams at the World Cup, behind the already qualified Germany and France, will compete for Europe’s final spot.
It’s an incredibly tough one to call as to who will reign supreme, but van de Donk feels her team, who are on home soil, have as good a chance as anyone.
“It’s going to be really difficult and we all know that, but everyone has a chance to go.
“It’s really important for the country after being at our first World Cup, and I hope we can be at our first Olympics.”
With no European qualifiers due to hosting the competition next year, van de Donk acknowledged that these qualifiers not only offer a route to Rio, but also offer highly competitive matches in the lead up to next year.
With young stars such as Vivianne Miedema and Lieke Martins joining the new Arsenal midfielder in a talented Netherlands squad, she says now is the time to show what her side can do.
She concluded: “We have to prove that we’re making steps and we want to show that we are one of the best, but we have to win in the qualifications to do that.
“There has been a lot of negativity about women’s football in the past, but we’re now on national television, which doesn’t happen for a lot of women’s sports. So we want to change people’s minds.”
Image shows Danielle against China in Edmonton at the 2015 WWC (Action Images)
Kieran Theivam produces our partner podcast at the Women’s Soccer Zone
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