Interview with Ruben Olthuis, Creator of Best Players Directory and Brazilian Football Websites

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Soccerlens is very pleased to welcome Mr. Ruben Olthuis, who is the creator of one of the largest football player databases in the world,, along with a site dedicated to Brazilian football. The player database, as of today, contains 899 players from 75 different countries. It has links to 1230 web sites, blogs, official player sites, and fan pages. The Brazilian project has fan web sites, club sites, links to Futsal (indoor football), and the National Team (Seleçao). Let us not forget that Mr. Olthuis is from the Netherlands, and not Samba land!
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Mr. Olthuis was born in Warnsveld, The Netherlands, which is a town located in the eastern part of this delightful country. He now resides in the vicinity of his birthplace with his wife and twin daughters. He is professionally employed as an IT manager for Aviko, and he configures Electronic Data Interchange connections (EDI) for his clients. He began playing “voetbal” at the age of 8, and until a recent injury, had participated in the sport for his entire life.

For a small country, The Netherlands has produced some of the most talented players in world soccer. For example, Johan Cruyff, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Marco Van Basten, and Ruud Van Nistelrooy. The Dutch revolutionized the sport back in the 1970s with “Total Football,” which was the free-flowing creation of Mr. Rinus Michels. For me, they always were reminiscent of the way Brazil played. Perhaps this might explain Mr. Olthuis’ affinity for the Brazilian game. Well, let’s ask him and see?

Ruben, please accept a warm welcome to Soccerlens.

For a small country in terms of population, why do you think The Netherlands have produced some of the finest football players and coaches in the world?

Very simply, because playing football starts on an early age at clubs that are everywhere. To give you an example, in a small town like Zutphen, we have 9 football clubs within an area of 3 km. These clubs have good contacts with professional teams, and there are scouts everywhere that select the most talented players. These players are then invited to traineeships, and after passing these exams, put into the club’s football academies. The network is huge, and the number of kids playing football, also!

As a young child, who was your favorite Dutch club team?

I had one team, and one team only. AJAX Amsterdam. Because of their attacking way of playing football (with skillful wingers) and their great players. You already mentioned a few of them: Cruyff, Van Basten, Rijkaard, Vaneburg, and Wouters. And later Kluivert, Seedorf (currently with AC Milan), Edgar Davids and more recent Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van de Vaart. All have been great players that have showed and are still showing their soccer skills in Europe.

Over the last few years Ajax tried to stay at the top of Europe by buying players, where the strength of Ajax in the past was to give young talents from their academy a chance to perform in the 1st team. These players were not given a change over the last few years.

However under the new coach of Ajax “Adrie Koster” — who followed-up Henk ten Cate after his move to Chelsea — new young talents are given a chance. And it pays-off immediately and Ajax is back at the top!

Many Brazilians over the years have played in Holland (Baltazar, Romario, and Ronaldo to name a few). When did your passion for Brazilian football begin?

It really began with Romario playing for PSV Eindhoven. That guy was really amazing. His skills enabled him to score goals. Even if he didn’t score, it was worthwhile staying at home to watch the matches of PSV with your family and friends.

His style was very much like Maradona: A lot of dribbling and always knowing where the goal was. Of course, Romario was a real number 9 and Maradona a number 10, though many similarities could be made. Currently of course Ronaldinho and Kakà are my favorites. They don’t need an extra introduction…

After that, I started to follow the Brazilian team. Their samba football, their World Cups, their goals, and everything else about Brazilian futebol. I started practicing their tricks and moves on the playground. It was (or is) a real soccer virus, though highly tempered during the last World Cup. I am still enjoying the Brazilian way of playing football. “Joga bonito,” my friends.

Ruben, please tell us about the beginnings of your web projects, along with your motivations to develop such specialized sites?

Well, I was surfing a lot on the SoccerNet, and I collected many websites of players into my personal favorites, and therefore wanted those player sites to be shared with other football fans around the world. There were not many multi-player websites out there, and if there were, they were inactive and part of larger link directories on football like Dmoz, Football-Linx, etc. Concentrating on players only made it possible for me to better monitor these links.

However, with my database growing each day, I have to admit it is getting more difficult for me, too. To give you an indication, today I have 1230 websites in my directory, on 899 (ex) soccer players and coaches in 75 countries.

What is the most difficult challenge to maintain such a large database of player information and related web sites?

A good content management system is the answer. One that is personally built by my friend Ruben de Jong (Yes, he has the same name). One disadvantage of such a system is the code used in the web address, which is not always indexed by search engines. For this, you can always build a rewrite URL, but that is something your provider should support. Currently for me, this is too expensive, but an option for the future!

You have twin daughters. How popular is football with young women in Holland, and are there organized leagues and youth academies dedicated solely for females?

It is rising in Holland enormously, with currently more than 88.000 females are playing football. With that football is the 2nd largest sport (after hockey) in The Netherlands. Strange that in earnings this sport is ranked after sports like volleyball, hockey and tennis.

In 2007 the Dutch Soccer Union (KNVB) started with the Dutch “Eredivisie” (Premier League) for Women. Six clubs started this year and matches are broadcasted on Dutch television. Unfortunately, Ajax, Feyenoord and Psv are not participating this season. The match between FC Twente and Sc Heerenveen even had 5.500 spectators.

I think we have still a long way to go internationally in female football. But with the number of female players in our country, that’s just a matter of time.

What is your opinion of Afonso Alves and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, along with Mr. Louis van Gaal?

To start with Afonso Alves (, and for the people who still don’t believe in his skills, “this guy is awesome”. I am aware of that the Dutch competition can’t be compared with the English League, but still I strongly believe that this Brazilian player will also produce many goals for (I think) Manchester City (although rumours say he is moving to Spartak Moskou).

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar “The Hunter” was born around the corner where I live (about 10km). After a small set-back in his career last season, he is now back on top of the Dutch scoring tables with 12-goals. 2 goals in front-off of Afonso Alves. Although he still needs to improve his physical part this guy is ready for a top league as for e.g. the English Premier League.

I think every coach wants to be manager of the English football squad, and so is Mr. Louis van Gaal. You have the opportunity to work in a country that breathes football and with the best players in the World. However, I don’t think he is the right man to do it. Simply because his strength is in building teams with fresh and young players and not in coaching a squad that just joins him for a few days. Above that his team AZ won’t let him!

In my opinion, the English team should focus on an English/Scottish coach. A man like Sir Alex Ferguson would be the right person but somehow he is stuck to Man Utd.

Ruben, thank you very much for your contribution to our column. Continued success and all the best wishes. Dank U wel.

I want to thank Steve and Soccerlens for their interest in my websites. Enjoy the game and don’t stop writing on what is the greatest sport ever!

Steve Amoia is the author and editor of World Football Commentaries.

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