Van der Sar is living the American dream: “This was a ‘once in a lifetime experience'”

Van der Sar is living the American dream: “This was a ‘once in a lifetime experience'”

After stints at Manchester United, Ajax, ADO Den Haag, RKC Waalwijk and Noordwijk, Jo van der Sar (25) has chosen the “American Dream”. He packed up and landed with the Pittsburgh Panthers football team at the University of Pittsburgh. Last fall, he and his team finished among the top four teams in the country. We spoke to Van der Sar about this successful period on the field and his experiences in America as well as football.

Currently the season is over, in America the sports are divided so that every sport gets full attention. So the football season runs from August to December. “You’ll play about 27 games here in six months, which has something spicy but at the same time also beautiful. For example, you play Friday and Monday or Tuesday and Thursday.”

The advantage that Van der Sar has is that he is a keeper and therefore less taxing. “In that period you play twice a week and that’s intense, but as a keeper it’s a different load.” He immediately explains what that other burden is: “It’s much more mental, as a keeper you focus more on the moments in the match than you’ve been constantly busy with. Staying mentally fresh is very important.”

A period like that with many games can work in your favor, if you win you get into a certain flow and that was evident last fall with the Pittsburgh Panthers. After a successful competition, Noordwijker ended up with his team in the knockout finals. In the end, the adventure ended in the final four. That was a strange experience. We flew to North Carolina on a private jet and stayed in a hotel with all the trimmings. Everything has been arranged down to the last detail for the players, fifteen employees and the entire media team.

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Focus on the physical
According to van der Sar, the main difference between Holland and America lies in the physical aspect and professionalism. “It’s more physical with the Americans, a lot of strength training and treadmills, but it’s very professional. In Holland, we’re used to beautiful football as a basis, but here the physical part begins.”

Van der Sar has another year of playing merit, because in America you’re only allowed a certain number of years as a “student-athlete.” For now, he hopes to get his bachelor’s degree this summer so he can do another master’s degree at another university. “I am looking at different universities. This is basically the direction I want to go, many schools are trying to seduce you with the ‘lifestyle’ of the city rather than football. This is a decision I have to make.”

When asked if Van der Sar also enjoys the “lifestyle” in Pittsburgh in addition to football, he replied with a laugh: “You have to look for the charm of this city, it’s not LA or Miami. However, there are times when you’re in a party.” And you think: This is a bit like in the movies.”

However, he must add that the university and the team are also professionals in this regard. “The sides are actually always out of season, during the season you travel and live from one match to the next.”

great experience
The fact that different sports are very popular at the university is evident from the support they receive. “Everyone who comes to watch wears a shirt, scarf, jacket or hat. It’s all in yellow, blue and white with a lot of passion. In the Netherlands people prefer to come as normal as possible and here it can’t be too crazy.”

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Finally, if we ask Van der Sar about his peak in America so far, he comes up with two different things. “It sounds like a cliche but the fact that you’re with your teammates every day means I have some friends for life. You eat together every day, you train together and you sit in class together, which created a certain chemistry that just won’t go away.”

Joe van der Sar private jet
In addition, he immediately mentions the semi-finals in which his team competed to become the best “collegiate team” in the country. “You play in a professional stadium with 7,000 spectators and then you get on the field and every scout from MLS – the American Premier League – is in the stands.”

The goalkeeper also almost played a leading role in that semi-final. “I took another penalty, but the rebound was still too bad. Anyway, everything around it: the private jet travel, the luxury hotel and the whole experience of that match, you don’t get that often in Holland. This is really a once in a lifetime experience.”

Read also: Van der Sar goes to study in America and leaves Noordwijk

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