Rob de Wit – A Career Cut Too Short

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He was already playing for the FC Utrecht reserves before it dawned on Robby de Wit that his future might lie in football. The Utrech-born winger (08/09/1963) hated school but was more than capable of playing with a ball. After his debut in the first team at the age of almost 19, the left-footed Robby grew quickly became a crowd favourite in the Galgenwaard. Although he was an excellent team-player, he wasn’t scared of taking on defenders on his own before finishing with a nice goal. Robby de Wit belonged to a strong group of young Dutch talent. He played at the U-20 World Cup in Mexico in 1983 in a team with, among others, Marco van Basten, John van ‘t Schip and Gerald Vanenburg.

His skill and talent did not go unnoticed for long and in the summer of 1984, after two seasons of FC Utrecht, Rob de Wit traded the Cathedral city for the Amsterdam Meer Stadium. Robby played 42 league matches for FC Utrecht in which he scored 7 times. At Ajax Amsterdam he had the hard task of replacing the Dane Jesper Olsen who had left for Manchester United. He succeeded easily. Robby de Wit played almost all matches, captured the hearts of the critical Amsterdam audience and scored no less than 16 goals in 61 matches.

On May 1, 1985, he made his debut for the Dutch Team. Almost two weeks later, on May 14, he scored probably one of the most beautiful goals ever in Dutch football history. With the score still 0-0 in the crucial away game in Hungary, De Wit replaced Ton Lokhoff. In the 68th minute Robby felt the urge to start with one of his legendary solos on the left. The focal point of his action was a nice little lob in the Hungarian goal which qualified the Netherlands for test matches later that year against Belgium. That double encounter would be the last chance for a ticket to the World Cup in Mexico one year later.

On November 20, 1985, the Dutch had to make up a 1-0 defeat against the Red Devils in the previous game. This time the venue was the Rotterdam Kuip. After it was still 0-0 at halftime, the Utrecht prodigy struck unrelentingly in the second half. First, he was responsible for the cross from which Peter Houtman headed in the 1-0 and then he took care of the 2-0 himself and with it the virtual qualification for the Dutch Team. Had Georges Grün not decided otherwise a few minutes before the end whistle and score the 2-1, De Wit might have been eternally famous after that night.

The missed qualification for the World Cup was a small drama but was barely comparable to the personal suffering that happened to Robby de Wit during that World Cup summer of 1986. On vacation in Spain, the barely 22-year-old player was hit by a cerebral hemorrhage. After 2 seasons in Utrecht, 2 seasons in Ajax and 8 games for the Dutch Team, the football career of the promising Utrecht product was over. De Wit initially recovered surprisingly fast and even trained again with the Ajax First Team. But he would never fully be his own self again. A revolutionary laser treatment in Sweden, announced by the doctors as “risk-free”, turned out badly, making a return to the pitch he loved so much a thing of the past. On the eve of the European Championships in Germany, on May 28, 1988, Ajax played a friendly game against the Dutch in Amsterdam for the benefit Robby. Nobody in the stadium remained unmoved when, after whistling, an emotional Robby de Wit was awarded a round of honour on the shoulders of his fellow players.

Unfortunately, even after the summer of 1986, he was not spared by fate. The plans to open a sandwich shop in Amsterdam collided with a bureaucratic wall of red tape. To make matters worse, Rob de Wit was hit again by a cerebral haemorrhage in 1993. The ex-international went to work for a while as a scout for FC Utrecht and as an football journalist for the newspaper “De Telegraaf”. Twelve years after the second, the unfortunate de Wit became victim of a third cerebral haemorrhage in 2005. Fortunately he survived this one as well.

Bronnen:

www.ajax.nl

www.bunnikside.nl

www.dichterbijvoetbal.nl

www.voetspoor.nl

www.vpro.nl/programma/hollandsport

Foto: Ajaxied Rob de Wit , kop, i.v.m. hervatting training na hersenbloeding door Bart Molendijk gebruikt onder CCO 1.0