‘You can be infected for life’

‘You can be infected for life’

In a ‘fatherly talk’, two veterans of Amsterdam’s criminal investigation department warn young Ajax players about the temptations and dangers of the criminal environment. For some young players, the underworld is very close. “It’s hard to be separated from childhood friends.”

Walter Laumans and Paul Vugts

The Amsterdam criminal ‘Boeloloe’, from De Pijp, who was fired in 2018, had already been called to the Ferdinand Bolstraat police station in 2015 because his life was in danger. After a conversation in which detectives warned him, he left in a Mercedes sports car. A rental car. Then detective Arno van Leeuwen looked at the license plate and saw that the car was registered to an Ajax youth player who also lived in De Pijp.

Van Leeuwen contacted Ajax’s security coordinator and heard that there were already more problems, so that the player’s contract would not be extended anyway.

He also looked at another Mercedes that Ajax had rented for the players. The son of professional criminal Gwenette Martha, who was fired in 2014, turned out to be driving one of them. Yet another Ajax player had lent his rental car to a friend who had fought in the center of Amsterdam, where the car was attacked in Zuidoost. The bullets that had shot from behind, concentrated behind the driver’s seat. The driver was lucky. Now that was the friend, but it could also be that Ajax player.

The now-retired Van Leeuwen and Bob Schagen, another veteran icon of Amsterdam’s criminal investigation department, still use photos of the car that was shot in the shows they now give every year, especially for Ajax’s youth players. Such a car shooting is an extreme example, but the police officers show how very different, the contact of the innocent and the wrong boys can have serious consequences.

The emerging chicken theory

In their conversation, Schagen and Van Leeuwen present their young audience with a problem: let’s say you bought a Rolex for 50,000 euros and a friend comes to you and says: ‘I’ll buy it from you for 75,000, but in cash.’

“There are always people who say: easy money,” says Schagen. He smiles a little sympathetically. “Then I tell you the truth happened. That the boy who bought the watch was later caught in a drug case. That he told us that he bought his Rolex from a football player. Then I say: do you realize that you are indirectly participating in money laundering in this way?”

Schagen calls his way of working the ‘bloated chicken theory’. “If you want to eat chicken and I told you it is a chicken that has suffered a lot, you think about that when you eat it. That’s how it works with this conversation. The young people we’ve talked to can no longer say, ‘I didn’t know.’

Schagen has already had about ten sessions with young football players. Not only with Ajax players, but now also players from Telstar and coaches from KNVB have received a presentation about the pitfalls that are an inseparable part of life as a professional player these days. Unfortunately, communication sometimes bleeds to death in the world of football where not only players, but also managers follow each other quickly and not everyone clearly sees the importance of information on the threat of crime.

Still, the importance is obvious. “These people sometimes already have a lot of money and a nice car at a young age, but they are not always aware of the fact that they are in a glass house,” says Schagen. “Everybody’s looking at them, everybody wants something from them and everybody’s looking at them. And we’re not here to judge them. Young people are allowed to make mistakes. We’re showing them the dangers, period.

Bad friends

Van Leeuwen, who, as a result of the result of the loan from Mercedes, was the basis of frequent discussions at Ajax: “In consultation with Ajax, we have now started to inform young players, from young options. Knowing the risks of friends or people bad contacts are part of your education as a professional player. Those boys are guided very hard by school, homework, nutrition, but this part was not exposed, when other boys grew up in the same neighborhoods as criminals. It’s hard to be separated from your friends of childhood.”

Although the life of an aspiring soccer player seems like a dream to many, everything that happens in other societies happens in the life of soccer players, Van Leeuwen emphasizes. “You see everything in football, the same with the police and journalism; I once had a colleague who committed a robbery. You see excessive behavior issues everywhere now. Well, if young people start using laughing gas in large quantities, it would be strange if no one in the professional clubs uses it.”

Indeed, in recent years there have been major incidents where famous soccer players also took laughing gas or other drugs.

Incidentally, detectives can never share sensitive police information privately with Ajax or the players, but all parties are aware of this.

Underground tour

Players who allow themselves to be tempted to come into close contact with criminals is certainly not a thing of recent years, and of course it is not isolated to Ajax either. In the nineties, a former Ajax first team player, Ton B. was found guilty in a major weapons case in which the notorious Amsterdam criminal Mink Kok was the main suspect. Another former Ajax player was the target of several bomb attacks in 2015 and 2018, possibly because he was robbed in a criminal dispute, according to police.

The capital’s criminal investigation department reported the former world-famous football expert several times in the middle of an underworld tour at VIP tables at martial arts galas. Criminals from Amsterdam’s Diamantbuurt drove off in the Porsche of another Amsterdam professional, who also made it to the Dutch national team. The car was now riddled with bullet holes.

In 2019, former football player Kelvin Maynard was locked in his car in Southeast Amsterdam – allegedly in retaliation for the theft of 400 kilograms of cocaine by a group he is associated with. The group has close ties with the famous rap group Zone6 from Holendrecht, which according to the court is involved in drug trafficking in large quantities. A sports car loaned by an Ajax player appeared in a Zone6 clip.

A shooting during the well-attended Waterfront dance party at the Scheepvaart museum in 2013. Criminals from two opposing camps sat at two VIP tables in an underground conflict that had already cost many lives since 2012, especially from the criminals of Amsterdam. There were also (former) top football players at both tables. A criminal from one group shot and killed a criminal from another group during a party, after the event ended in chaos and panic. Two weeks after the shooting, Schagen and Van Leeuwen saw on television how one of the football players present at the VIP tables made his debut for the Dutch national team in an away friendly match against Indonesia.

In recent years, professional footballers have frequently announced news that seems to be close to the criminal environment. For example, Mohamed Ihattaren from Utrecht ended up in an escalating conflict through love affairs. He sought protection from old friends, tough guys in the Utrecht drug scene. After PSV he also had to leave Ajax because he had slipped too much.

Quincy Promises

It also went completely wrong with Quincy Promes. He is seen by the court as an investor in a large shipment of smuggled cocaine. His phone was intercepted in a drug-trafficking investigation and police heard he admitted stabbing his cousin during an argument at a family party. The Public Prosecution Service has now demanded a two-year prison sentence in a criminal case over the stabbing.

Promes had been warned. Schagen and Van Leeuwen sat around the table with him twice. The first time was after he was seen with the front man of the rap group Zone6. A dangerous contact, according to the detective, because of the suspected connection to the international cocaine trade. The Zone6 manager is now back in prison for kidnapping. The second time was about Promes’s friendship with the rapper’s half-brother Jason L., who has been sentenced to eighteen years in prison for rape.

The Promes case is redundant in some respects, but it reinforces the image of Schagen and Van Leeuwen that some football players rub (too) close to the criminal environment. “One time we had a football player who made a transfer abroad,” says Schagen. “He had arranged his house through the vine. The house became a crime scene. Another person lived there who was later shot dead. In the end, the football player himself was clearing the field of weeds. You can be infected for life through contact with criminals.”

A role model and influencer

Ajax youth training at the De Toekomst stadium. More than three hundred boys and girls train there, from the very young to those who will soon appear in the first team. Next to the training ground is a building with several classrooms. Students receive tuition and guidance here. “We feel a responsibility to these children that goes beyond just sports,” says Oscar Alkemade, head of Ajax’s social guidance department. “A lot of kids don’t make it to the first team. So we don’t feel responsible if they just go to play football. We also try to make sure that if their football career doesn’t turn out as they expect, they have options. The social side has become more important in that regard.”

Young people from different walks of life train at De Toekomst. For some, the home environment is stable, for others not at all. “Scouts try to estimate, but we don’t always know how things are at home,” Alkemade admits. He praises the conversation with the Amsterdam police. “When they go through, they are high-level athletes, role models and influencers, with related responsibilities. Even if they don’t break, it’s important that they recognize the risks.” Gambling is also a pit, especially if it can lead to match fixing.

Ajax and scouts Van Leeuwen and Schagen therefore consider it very important that regular information for young players continues. Gradually it’s time for the young Amsterdam police detectives to take over. Van Leeuwen: “I’m already retired myself and Bob won’t be working for long either. As sixty-year-olds, we should be followed by younger police officers who are more in touch with young people. A player from the Ajax first team told me recently: ‘You’re retired , isn’t it?’

Any successors must also realize that they must act with complete integrity. Van Leeuwen: “We do this free and for free. No selfies, no taking tickets for games. Everything must remain clean.”

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