In the second season of Leaders Justus Dingemanse interviews famous faces from Dutch football journalism in Restaurant & Bar NOLA in Utrecht. On the basis of interesting anecdotes, they provide a glimpse into the media world full of press rooms, broadcasters and tight deadlines. In this episode, columnist Nico Dijkshoorn takes a seat next to Justus, to give his honest opinion about his own work. He talks about the people he made fun of, the relationship with his father and how people on Twitter sometimes make him furious.
“I can shamelessly laugh at my own pieces”, the columnist says that he usually shakes his columns out of his sleeve in 45 minutes. “I write in a kind of daze. Then I read it back and I think: this is so crazy!” However, his job is anything but easy. “The essence of writing columns is that you can deal with the number of words. If it’s 250 words or less, I can’t do what I love to do. It’s either a fart or you’re like a Buddhist. Like: I’ll tell you in 120 words how life works!”
When Dijkshoorn speaks, he regularly warns that he does not want to sound too pretentious or omniscient. Characteristics that were sometimes attributed to him when he was the in-house poet of De Wereld Draait Door. “I always had a certain look after those poems. Then people thought: oh, how satisfied he is with himself again. As if I had written the state bible. But I had just the opposite!” The writer tells how he was busy scratching and streaking just before he had to read.
Nico Dijkshoorn and his pen: a golden combination
“I often couldn’t read a word of what I had written down,” he continues. “Every time I finished I thought: I can’t believe I managed to read this shit again! A kind of awakening from a daze of concentration.” Dijkshoorn is therefore careful with his image, which can be difficult in a time of social media. The wordsmith can handle criticism well, but from people who matter.
“I was on Twitter for fun. Then when someone responds, “Hey, be a little funnier next time,” I get furious. Am I fucking in your service or something?”. Dijkshoorn has nothing to do with people who do not reveal their identity on the internet. “Then I always answer with ‘According to RickySlingeraapje45683’. It cannot be public because he has children and a job. So your opinion is completely irrelevant, because nothing is at stake for you. You can destroy anyone on Twitter in two minutes.”
That while the controversial columnist himself poked fun at people for years, in all openness. A career choice that sometimes caused him fights, such as with Patty Brard. “I had just seen her shit in a colander on a show. Literal! Then she published her book as “a revealing book.” I thought: what the fuck should there be in that book?” Dijkshoorn wrote an unfiltered column, which caused Brard to tell a furious story. However, the writer at the time did not regret his piece at all.
Nico Dijkshoorn behind his laptop in Leiden
Today he looks back on certain conflicts differently. For example on his column on Lee Towers. Dijkshoorn wrote that the singer had pushed a competitor from a crane. “The man could only move his eyes, then Lee Towers wanted to sing You’ll never walk alone for him.” The writer calls it his ‘social shortcoming’. “That went so far. At Patty Brard and at Lee Towers, I had no idea how hard that hit those people.”
Dijkshoorn will mainly be known as the columnist of Football International† For years he wrote countless stories about the football world: “The approach is always: ‘Amazed man looks at a nihilistic world.’” He likes to highlight details of that world in order to enlarge it in words. He also watched the Feyenoord documentary, broadcast on Disney+† “They had just told Dirk Kuijt that he would not be the new trainer after all. And you see Kuijt going to stoke with John de Wolf. Like, ‘Have you heard anything John? Ridiculous, isn’t it?’ Everyone into those mics. And John is like: if I open my mouth now, I’ll be an asshole… fucked, Kuijt!”
Yet Dijkshoorn is above all a fan of the sport and he also wrote admiring pieces. Like when he went to the Kuip with Willem van Hanegem. He explains his famous sentence about the stuffed cake: “I went with him to the press room, there I was fiddling with my coat very uncomfortably. Willem came to me and said: ‘You keep getting that coat, come here.’ So it does my coat well, like I was three years old”, the guest laughs. Van Hanegem then asked if he should get a filled cake. “I felt very briefly that afternoon how big that man is, and how modest he has always remained.”
Despite this, Dijkshoorn cannot maneuver through the football world without a conflict here and there. Hans Kraay Jr. once called him a ‘horrible person’ at VI Oranje. “After the broadcast, I spent another hour with him having a beer, but the next morning he sat with Giel Beelen and he asked how it went. ‘I want nothing to do with Nico Dijkshoorn!’, he said. I thought: hey, we had such a nice drink!”
Nico Dijkshoorn is a guest at Justus in Kopstukken in Restaurant & Bar NOLA
“He’s a really nice guy, but he’s acting weird on television. He always thinks there must be a buzz.” Dijkshoorn thinks this has to do with the relationship that Kraay had with his father. “That’s a man who, like me, is simply ruined by his father. At the same time, he loves him, and he hates him.” The columnist tells how he grew up playing baseball, the sport that father loved. Dijkshoorn therefore regularly had to go to his old man’s matches.
“That was hell. In retrospect, I really experience that as child abuse. That whole eagerness of parents…” Young Dijkshoorn was a baseball talent, but never really liked it himself. “But my father probably walked around with an erection for eight years.” He believes that parents should not impose their sporting dreams on a child, although he admits that he has been guilty of this himself. “My son played football at AZ for a while, those were just wasted years. It’s not that my son dreamed of that. He only knew Ajax. He look: where the fuck is that? All the way in Alkmaar?”
Dijkshoorn states that clubs do not care about the development of the child, only about the football player. “Me and my ex-wife asked if it was going to be something. Absolutely, they had never seen anything like it! That’s just been said to 130 guys.” Partly due to the intensive program at the Alkmaar club, son Bob got a social disadvantage. “He lost all his friends. I don’t know anyone now who values friendship more. It is simply not good to give a child of eleven or twelve in the hands of an Eredivisie association.”
Justus Dingemanse is a full-time presenter and program maker at Voetbalzone and makes contributions in the form of exclusive interviews, reports, documentaries and programs.