Getting into the national team when I was 16 opened up a new world for me, though. A year after I first played for the Netherlands, we went to China, where FIFA were holding a tournament to test out whether they should hold a Women’s World Cup.
That trip was one of the big experiences of my career. I think that’s why I remember it all so well. The White Swan hotel. A good field to train on. Going to the games with a police escort.
We got huge crowds, too. Well, not 70,000, but there were 10-15,000 at the games. That was new for us.
In the end, we lost to Brazil – unnecessarily, I still think. But we really grew into that tournament. It showed that when we had more opportunities to train and better facilities, we were a pretty good team, even then.
It was in China that I first met Anson Dorrance. He was head coach of the US Women’s National Team and led the women’s soccer programme at the University of North Carolina.
I told him I was interested in playing in the US.
“America was like a soccer paradise for me. There was recognition, the facilities were great and we had good coaches”
In the Netherlands, it felt like we were always fighting for our place. Like we weren’t accepted. I wanted more and I knew that, in the US, things were better for women’s soccer.
The level was good there, and I would be able to combine developing my game with studying.
So, I went. I had never been away from home for a long time before. I’d never been to America, either. I didn’t know what to expect.
I will never forget that plane journey. I was so nervous. So out of my comfort zone. I kept asking myself: am I doing the right thing?
I shouldn’t have worried. America was like a soccer paradise for me. There was recognition, the facilities were great and we had good coaches – passionate coaches.
The year I spent there changed my life. It changed my mindset.
In America I had found something I was looking for.