“Just a moment, I'll just finish an app. Then we can start. ” These are the words of Bernard Schuiteman (1973), former defender of Bayer Leverkusen and Feyenoord, among others. Today he scour central Europe in search of talent for Manchester United. Talents he used to be one of himself. But Schuiteman was never discovered by the scouts; The then fifteen-year-old player of Veluwse Boys brought himself to the attention of the professional clubs via a letter.
After the app has been completed and the focus is completely on the Skype conversation that reduces the distance between Austria and the Netherlands to the thickness of a screen, Schuiteman tells the story behind the letter sent. “I played for Veluwse Boys, a small club from Garderen. But no one came to see that while I was already playing in the first team at the age of fifteen. I really wanted to become a professional footballer, so I had sent that letter asking: "How do I become a professional footballer?"
It was Vitesse, FC Twente and FC Zwolle who responded with interest to the letter. "My choice fell on FC Twente. I had the best feeling about that. ” Sending the letter thus earned Schuiteman a place in the youth academy of the Enschede people, but also a wise life lesson: “My father always said:" sometimes you have to take initiative in life. You can't sit back and hope everyone comes to you. Sometimes you have to take the first step yourself '. That was a wise lesson for me. ”
That Schuiteman as a young guy was already a smart one, they later also found out at FC Twente. “I played at FC Twente for a month and I was already in Orange -16. After which in my second year Leverkusen showed interest ”, the stopper recalls. “I had not yet signed with FC Twente, but already had an offer in my pocket. But because this was before the Bosman judgment, it would mean that I was chained to the club if I signed and I did not want that. ”
“At that time my father helped me with the contract negotiations and he said to Twente:" Add a hundred guilders and we'll sign. " Well, Twente didn't want that and then I went to talk to Leverkusen and left in the summer of 1993. ” At Bayer Leverkusen, Schuiteman became a teammate of a lot of renowned names: Paulo Sergio, Ioan Lupescu, Ulf Kirsten and Andreas Thon. But one name stood out: Bernd Schuster. The German playmaker finished in Leverkusen, after a brilliant career that led him past FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, among others.
“A very friendly and calm man. He did open my eyes about professional life ”, says Schuiteman, who illustrates his statement with an example. “Schuster was well into his thirties, but he was always the first on the training field and the last to leave the field. Training on free kicks and things like that. Beautiful to see. ” Schuiteman cannot do anything with the fact that De Blonde Engel was dismissed as an enfant terrible. “Yes, he gave his opinion, but he wasn't difficult at all. Bernd was a man of principles. For example, he did not want "chemical junk" in his body. He didn't like a syringe to recover earlier. "Then something like that only takes a little longer," was what he said about it. Bernd was a very nice man. ”
Schuiteman is happy to talk about his time in Germany. “Because I have had great years there. I only had the problem that at the time the rule was that a team could set up a maximum of three foreigners. So as a young foreign defender, not only the other defenders were my competitors, but also the other foreigners. ” This prevented a breakthrough in Germany, despite the good relationship Schuiteman had with trainer Dragoslav Stepanović. “Stepi was a great trainer. Despite my youthful age, he gave me playing time and was not afraid to bring young players. I have always really appreciated that in him. ” Schuiteman played a total of seven games in the Bundesliga for Leverkusen, after which he was sold to Feyenoord for about 750,000 euros in January 1995.
“I had my best period in Rotterdam”, it sounds cheerfully. “I got along very well with the Legion, which realized that I am a no-nonsense boy who sometimes kicked someone. That was appreciated. And I scored against Ajax, that also helps ”, chuckles Schuiteman, who was by no means always sure of his place in De Kuip, but for a long time formed a central duo with Ronald Koeman.
“I got my chance next to Koeman after it didn't work out with Ulrich Van Gobbel. The slower Ronald next to the fast Ulrich was the idea, but that did not work and we got a lot of goals against. Nothing to the detriment of Van Gobbel, by the way, because he was a very good player, but more for the right side. ” Subsequently, Schuiteman was allowed to show it alongside Koeman, but there were also doubts about Schuiteman. “It was thought:" Bernard is not that fast, neither is Koeman. That will be difficult.' But we did have a game or eight, nine out. We felt good about each other and it also worked well from a positional point of view. ” Schuiteman played 82 games in the red and white of Feyenoord, but a definitive breakthrough was not forthcoming. “But I look back on that time with great pleasure. Feyenoord is my cluppie together with FC Twente. Every week I also quickly check the internet to see what they have done. ”
That quickly brings the conversation to the championship of the Rotterdammers. “Yes, that championship. Fantastic! ”, The defender springs up. “When I look at the current defense, I can especially enjoy Erik Botteghin. I can recognize myself in him. A robust defender who puts the elimination of his man first. Looking back on my career, his career path might have been good for me. Via PEC and Groningen at Feyenoord. That is a nice structure. ”
Back to Bernard Schuiteman's career. After a short rental period at FC Utrecht, he went abroad where he sought and found the adventure. “That's how I am set up. I could also have chosen to play in the Eredivisie for twelve years, but then you keep seeing the same thing. I didn't want that. ” Schuiteman was the first to end up with Grazer AK. “That club was about to burst financially when I got there, but I didn't know that. For the first time in my career, agreements were not kept and salaries were not paid. A difficult period, because I said goodbye to the club early and therefore spent a few months at home looking around. ”
The transfer-free Schuiteman was picked up by FSV Mainz 05 at the beginning of 2001, but it was not a great success.“Because I dropped in in the middle of the season. You have to find your place again and you miss competition rhythm. ” After short periods at SpVgg Unterhaching and Apollon Limassol, Schuiteman ended up in Leeuwarden in 2003, where he found football fun again.
“Cambuur, really a club that suits me”, Schuiteman continues. “What shows that? Cambuur, just like Feyenoord, is a club with fanatical supporters and a lot of emotion. I love that. I also regained my stability at Cambuur and had a few good years. ” His period in Leeuwarden came to an end in 2006, when Schuiteman returned to Austria and specialized in scouting.
“Scouting is really my thing. For Manchester United I keep an eye on countries such as the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland. I know almost all the clubs here and I really enjoy my current role ”, says Schuiteman enthusiastically, then adding:“ I will therefore not return to the Netherlands any time soon. Perhaps only for a position as technical director. I still aspire to a role like that, but I am in the right place here in Austria and I am really enjoying myself. ”
Schuiteman has played with many top players in his career. His favorite team of former teammates looks like this and includes many former Feyenoord players, who became national champions in 1999. “In 1999 I was under contract with Feyenoord, but I was let to FC Utrecht. Officially I have become champion of the Netherlands, but you will not hear me say that anywhere. ”
Bernard Schuiteman's team:
The photos in this article come from the ANP Archives.