For Daniel Bouman his move abroad to join Eredivisie side FC Groningen is more like a homecoming. Bouman – affectionately known as Dutchie in his junior days in Australia – was born in the Netherlands as were his father and sister. At four years of age, Bouman and his family would move to Australia which is where his mother hailed from.
“Just before our move back to the Netherlands, during a holiday, we orientated ourselves on the football situation there,” the former Manly United and Blacktown City player told Football Central.
“I had done a couple of training sessions with a lower club until my uncle knew someone who asked if I could train with FC Groningen. We sent them a video and they said they would check me out.
“I had one training session which led to being offered an extra week of training. After this week of training they were impressed and wanted to see a bit more. I was allowed to stay and train for the remainder of my stay.”
This has led to a standard one year amateur contract with the Under 17 team which the midfielder hopes will result in a professional deal should he continue to impress.
“Ever since I was four or five I’ve wanted to be involved in football,” said Bouman.
“I’m really focused on performing my best and getting the most out of the FC Groningen experience and long-term, obviously the dream would be to become a professional.”
Despite the amateur status, youth football in the Netherlands is a big departure from what the youngster was used to in Australia.
“Living and playing football here is very different to Australia,” revealed Bouman.
“Firstly, we train every day sometimes before school and sometimes in the afternoon. Playing at a professional club is a lot more serious and the game style is different.
“The tempo of play is a lot quicker and there is much more focus on first touch and passing. To account for all my training I go to a Topsport Talent School in Groningen. Here we have a school timetable based around football training. Another major difference with the lifestyle is that I am usually riding my bike all day, to training and school.
“I have worked hard in my first season (Under 17’s) to get accustomed to the different style of play here and have been rewarded with being selected to go through to the Under 19’s next season.”
The young Aussie still enjoys watching the likes of Kaka, Ronaldinho and Zidane on Youtube but it’s Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy who is his “all-time favourite.” Despite idolising the Dutch forward, it is the midfield where Bouman is looking to make his name. Since being with the ‘Pride of the North’ he has been trained to play in a number of positions in midfield.
“In the first half of the season I was playing as a six or an eight – defensive midfield – but now, in the second half of the season I am playing a bit higher up the pitch.
“We have a triangle midfield with one defensive midfielder and two that are more attacking. I am usually one of the more attacking midfielders. One of my attributes is that I can run a lot. I love to help out with attack but also help get back in defence. I guess a box-to-box player.”
Bouman is not the only Australian at Groningen with Melbourne teenager, Ajdin Hrustic, in the Under 19s. Hrustic is a Bosnian youth international and was previously with Schalke 04′s youth team before swapping Germany for the Netherlands. The two have met but being in different teams means they haven’t had as much of a chance to bond.
“Yes, we have met,” said Hrustic.
“He’s playing for the B1 which is the Under 17 team so I don’t know much about him but we’ve had a few chats. If he was playing in my age group, I’m sure I would’ve had him more by my side. But I’ve heard he’s doing well.”
Hrustic is doing well, too. Last year before the winter break he was set to start training with the first team before an ankle injury scuppered that but he has since recovered from that setback and is playing well.
“I had that one injury on my ankle but since then I haven’t had any problems and have been in top fitness,” said Hrustic.
“We won seven nil the other day against Ajax. And I’m playing today with a senior team against Cambuur’s first team so I’m back involved with the firsts.”