UNTOLD STORIES: THE SHARED LIVES OF GULLIT AND RIJKAARD
Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard are undoubtedly two of the finest footballers the Netherlands has ever produced. Their shared story is one of football’s greatest.
The tale of the two men’s interconnected lives begins before they were even born. Their fathers, George Gullit and Herman Rijkaard were both talented strikers playing their trade in Surinaame with George representing Transvaal and Herman S.V. Robinhood. Both sides played in the top division of Suriname and will have faced off often.
Like many young men in the former Dutch colony located in South America, their heads were turned by the promise of better work opportunities across the Atlantic, choosing, like many, to settle in the bustling Dutch capital of Amsterdam.
As fate would have it both men left their homeland on the same day, from the same port, on the same ship. They disembarked together before diverging.
Herman continued his life as a footballer, playing five seasons with Amsterdams historic Blauw-Wit before settling down as a social worker in Amsterdam West. George left his playing days behind him upon arrival, initially studying at Vrije Universiteit in the South of Amsterdam before finding employment teaching economics at a school in Jordaan, to Amsterdam’s north east.
Both of their famous sons were born within a month of each other in 1962. After initially settling in Jordaan, the Gullit’s made the move to Amsterdam West, settling near Balboa Square, a famed proving ground for the district’s budding footballers. It would be in this square that the 11 year old Frank and Ruud would first meet.
Before long, Gullit had convinced Rijkaard to move over to his academy side at AFC DWS, here the boys would remain inseparable over the next five years before diverging to begin their footballing journeys.
The following decade would see them become legends in their homeland before taking their talents to Italy with Sacchi’s all conquering Milan side.
From childhood friends playing street football to winning back to back European cups, they lived the dream of so many.
Words by Andy Gallagher