WPSS – Can you describe the feeling you have at signing your first professional contract for NEC Nijmegen?
Mike den Heijer – It’s an unbelievable feeling to sign my first professional contract. It’s been a dream since I was very young to be part of a first team in a European club.
WPSS – In making the move to Holland what new challenges did you face and what difficulties did you have to overcome in order to earn your professional contract?
Mike den Heijer – I faced many challenges in my first season in Europe. I witnessed first hand how competitive it is to become a professional player, there are few spots for so many willing talented players. I also learnt that it is important to always believe in your ability and stick up for yourself. You have to learn to be mentally strong to survive, being away from your family and friends in such a competitive environment has it’s difficulties!
WPSS – You started in the elite school at the age of 8 years old. What do feel were the key learnings and experiences working in the program that helped you make the transition to a new country and profesional environment?
Mike den Heijer – I started training in the elite program when I was 8 years old. I enjoyed the program so much as a youngster, the quality of the trainings was always better than any where else in New Zealand. I learnt not only about football but also about everyday life skills to help you become a top footballer. I was fortunate enough to go on many international tours and experience the level of world class players of the same age. It showed me just how hard you have to work to keep up. I have such great memories of my years training in elite program and without the support from all the staff and under the guidance of Miya and Leigh for so many years I would not be in the position I am today.
WPSS – What does the new European season now have in store for you and what are your goals for the new season at NEC Nijmegen?
Mike den Heijer – The new season should be an exciting one, after a disappointing season with relegation last year. NEC Nijmegen is now one of the biggest clubs in the second division. The club will be expecting to bounce back and push for promotion back to the Eredivise. My goal for this season is to continue to improve my self every training and get as many minutes on the pitch as possible.
WPSS – What advice can you give all the young players that are in the WPSS program and are dreaming of playing professional football?
Mike den Heijer – My advice to young players in the WPSS program is always believe in yourself and make the most of every opportunity that WPSS offers to you. If you want something you can definitely achieve it with a lot of hard work and determination.