Interviews

Veltman: I'm lucky to have played with Eriksen

'We're so pleased he's recovering' says Dutch defender.

By Charlie Hanson • 17 June 2021

By OnsOranje
Joel Veltman came on for the final few minutes against Ukraine in the the Netherlands' opening game of Euro 2020.

Albion defender Joel Veltman has spoken of the cloud that came over the Netherlands squad in the wake of former teammate Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest.

The Danish midfielder collapsed during the first half of their opening game against Finland but thanks to quick medical intervention he is recovering in hospital.

Veltman played alongside Eriksen with Dutch giants Ajax at Under-19 level, before progressing to the first team together.

“We have a few guys who have played with him, and everybody was quiet at the team dinner that night. We were supposed to have a meeting but the coach [Frank de Boer] cancelled it as he could see our focus was elsewhere. We were all really sad because of what happened.

“We were just waiting for positive news and luckily for Chris that came quite quickly. Daley Blind played with Christian a lot at Ajax and knows him better, he also had an issue with his heart, so it was even tougher for him.

“It was horrible to see Chris’s girlfriend upset at the side of the pitch. We have the feeling that it can happen to anyone – we have tests at the start of the season to make sure that there are no underlying issues but it makes you think a lot.

“He’s sent out some really nice messages which has been important for the players. People are saying that he won’t be able to play again, but just wait and see. First of all we’re happy he’s alive, we aren’t looking that far ahead yet. We don’t care if he plays again or not, we’re just pleased to see that he is recovering.”

Joel reflects on his time playing with Erisken fondly.

“If somebody asked me who the best player I played with in the youth at Ajax, it would be Christian Eriksen. We had shooting drills in training where you had to shoot with both feet, he found the bottom corner with both and we were all like ‘which one is his favoured foot!’ He was amazing then. He’s a talented guy and also within three months of being with us he was speaking some Dutch, he’s a good guy.”

The Netherlands are next in action at the Euros tonight as they take on Austria in Amsterdam, having enjoyed a 3-2 win over Ukraine in their opening game, which proved to be one of the matches of the tournament so far.

“In the beginning it was a bit frantic – they were attacking, we were attacking, it took a lot of energy. We went 2-0 up and everyone was like ‘stay cool, everything is fine’. Andriy Yarmolenko scored what I would say was quite a nice goal! At 2-1 you never know what might happen, it went to 2-2 and your world starts to crumble, but we got the goal to win and we were delighted.

“North Macedonia showed they’re a good side against Austria, even though went on to lose 3-1, but there are no easy games in an international tournament.”

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