Wijsens national coach plays against world champion Messi

Wijsens national coach plays against world champion Messi

– It sounds like a fairy tale, but it is true. Remco Bicentini will play against world champion Lionel Messi in three weeks time.

Curaçao’s national coach knows it will be very special. “Great. A fantastic poster for me as a coach, but of course for the players and the country. In mid-February, we got a message from the president of Curacao that Argentina had approached us for a match.”

Messi is there

The big question is whether Messi will actually make the move. “He’ll be there, I’m told. That’s the deal. It’s their first game since the World Cup. They’re using the tournament as a gift to the public in Argentina. Even though Messi will only be there for five minutes, it’s full. The entourage is huge for Curacao.”

It’s true: Curaçao plays against Argentina – Photo: Remco Bicentini

It speaks volumes about the status of Curacao, where the country has been invited to play against the world champions. Since Remko Bicentini became the national coach in 2016, the country has become successful. “We won the 36-nation Caribbean Cup, including Mexico and Costa Rica. We qualified three times for the Gold Cup, where we played great games against the United States and Mexico. These are decisive things for a country like Argentina. Call us. We’re not going to stop three buses, we’re football. They know we want to play.”

Janga is a certainty

Curacao has several players with Gelderland connections. The likes of Rangelo Dzanga played for NEC during the season the club was promoted to the Premier League. He is now making waves at CFR Cluj in Romania. “Rangelo is solid in my choice. I know him since his Willem II days. You can trust him. Always hardworking, a real team player, he scores goals. He always did a great job for Curacao. I can’t get around him.”

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Rest Point Room

Nijmegen goalkeeper Eloi Chambers is an essential international. “The calmness he exudes goes through everything. As a person, Elo is also a point of relaxation, especially when we’re under pressure. And he’s very important in the build-up.”

Annoying to Benzop

Charlison Bensop is a permanent fixture. The striker is currently out of action due to a conflict with his contract at DeGrasskop. “I think it’s a very annoying situation. He was good at De Graafsk. I don’t know about that, but he doesn’t play for his club. It’s a pity and he misses the matches for the national team. But Charlizen Benzop has always done well for us.”

Select Curacao

Bicentini always scours the Dutch league for players with roots from Curacao. For example, he had Feyenoord players Lutsharel Geertruda and Kwilindsky Hartmann in the picture. But they are now selected for Orange. “Now Ronald Koeman has been appointed and he has a different vision than the previous national coach. But there are players who, to be realistic, would be better off choosing Curacao than waiting for the Dutch national team.”

Lots of great games

Curacao also offers an interesting route with several major races. “We play in Group A of the Nations League. Before we play against Argentina we play against Canada. We can qualify for the Gold Cup again. And the Copa America is included. Six CONCACAF countries can compete now. It’s a chance for us to be there.”

But the bigger goal is qualification for the 2026 World Cup. “The World Cup is in the United States, Canada and Mexico. They have already qualified, so there are still three spots open in CONCACAF. So we have a good chance to do it.”

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Heart for NEC

Bicentini is busy as the national coach, but when possible, he is on the NEC stand. “NEC is in my heart. Especially after last season, when I was an assistant coach for my UEFA Pro training. I know NEC inside out. I played there myself. It’s a shame some Antilleans are playing, otherwise I might have picked them too,” laughs the national coach.

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