“I could work hard, but I had to wait”

“I could work hard, but I had to wait”

Vink is now a confident and strong sixteen-year-old boy. How different it was five years ago when he made the switch from fellow club Zeeburgia to Ajax’s youth academy at the age of eleven. He certainly wasn’t one of the best in his early years. In fact, Vink was close to leaving Amsterdam’s youth academy every season. “It was a completely different world for me and I had a hard time with it. I always played in the second teams and sat on the bench a lot. At first there were a lot of changes in my position.”

Find out
He stayed and flipped the switch. Successful as it turns out. “At some point I decided to do my own thing. ‘If it goes well, I can stay and if it goes bad, I will be fired.’ That was my thinking. I never dared to make mistakes and hide on the field. But the coaches didn’t want to see that. I noticed that when I came home almost every weekend I was a little emotional because it wasn’t going well. I talked a lot about it and I went to a psychologist. From O13 / O14 I got a lot of confidence from my trainer and it went well.”

Vink then turned into a goal machine and never disappeared from the attack. Years of high goals followed and that led to skipping a grade. From the 2022/2023 season it is part of Ajax O18. The sixteen-year-old striker started well, but suffered a serious injury in December 2022 in a mini-Classic game against Feyenoord.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this. I tore a ligament in my ankle, broke a fibula and ruptured another ligament. In the gym I was surrounded by my mother, brother and physio, among others. I don’t remember what I said there, until I entered the the ambulance was where I regained consciousness.”

The diagnosis was six months of recovery, and two surgeries. Fortunately, Vink was able to get surgery quickly so his recovery could begin. “Within two weeks I was on the operating table. For the first month and a half I was in bed at home and could only crawl. I couldn’t walk and barely got out of bed for a week. I never watched much. Netflix,” the striker smiles. “I could do very little and that was painful. It was very lonely. I went from being here every day to being alone every day. The difference came when I was lying in bed at home.”

Be patient
Eight weeks after the first surgery, a few more pins were removed and her rehabilitation could begin. “Then I started walking. That got better every day. Although the running stage was still very big at that time. Cycling on Toekomst and not much else. But I was happy to be back for a long time.”

Step by step he moved forward, literally. “If I work hard, I’ll make it on my own.” An idea that has been guiding his entire life. “But with this injury it didn’t work right away and that’s disappointing. I could have worked really hard, but I had to wait. Very hard.”

Staying longer at the club, extra exercise and reducing his fat percentage just a little; Vink did everything to come back as strong as possible. What happened to him the most? Watching his own team’s matches and seeing his teammates work in his position. “If you play a lot, you only care about the results. On the other hand, I learned a lot about myself. For example, I saw how someone who was in my position fulfilled that role. That gave me a great understanding.”

“My training day was from nine to four, now my day is from nine to nine or from twelve to twelve. That is where the difference is, I have had time to know the past period. I will take it with me throughout my life,” says the confident Vink.

Saturday 6 May was the day Vink returned again. With his ‘own’ class, Ajax U17, he played an official game for the first time on the tour of PSV U17. The moment a sixteen-year-old stopped to think, especially before. “Getting on the bus together, that was something I missed. Being a footballer feels like the past. As if I haven’t left.”

From home and as a fan, Vink closely followed his Ajax U18 team in the early days of his rehabilitation. Once he returned to the club he was heavily involved in the whole process. “Ajax has made a very good contribution to that.” While the renovation was in progress, the live stream from the house was switched to Toekomst’s main hall. And now, when the gifts are distributed, Vink is around again. “That was my goal. A lot of people thought it was the end of the season, but I wanted to go faster.”

He doesn’t want to call himself perfect yet. Completely in line with his thoughts, he tells us what is still missing. “As long as my level is not the same as before, I am still in my rehabilitation process. In some aspects I am stronger than before my injury, but there is still room for improvement in small aspects such as dribbling or sprinting.”

A gift
On Saturday Ajax U18, together with Vink, will play in the battle for the national championship against PSV. “Even if it’s two minutes, then I’m satisfied. My season is still successful if we win.”

The match with PSV U18 can be followed live on Saturday from 13:30 on Ajax.nl, in the Ajax App or on our YouTube channel.