De Ligt looks back with sadness on Nouri’s cardiac arrest: ‘Goosebumps when I think about it’

Matthijs de Ligt still feels sadness when he thinks back to Abdelhak Nouri’s cardiac arrest, as it appears in the broadcast of Island of Beau on RTL. The man-dekker grew up with the technician and so the event touched him even more.

‘What happened to Appie is, of course, terrible. We grew up together’, says De Ligt. ‘If you fall down on the field at such a young age with a very big problem… We heard that it was stable, came back from a training session and we had to go upstairs on our kicks to the meeting room. We saw a crying team manager there. I get goosebumps thinking about it. They are all young boys, we all grew up together, and then an event like that.’

However, his period at Ajax also consisted of positive moments. He will not simply forget the Champions League campaign of the 2018/2019 season. “The semi-finals are not dominant for me. It is mainly the journey that we have made. When I think about it now, it was so magical. The problem is you compare everything to that. It was such an intensely beautiful season. Everything that comes after that is actually less. It’s actually bizarre that you can get this far with Ajax.’

As an eighteen-year-old defender, De Ligt was suddenly appointed captain of Ajax. He talks about the special moment when he heard it. “I never thought about becoming captain at that age. I thought: it’s impossible, because we had guys like Joël Veltman, Lasse Schöne, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and many more experienced guys. After that conversation you start thinking: what are the consequences and how do the older boys suddenly look at me? Is an eighteen-year-old boy going to tell me what to do?’

‘Fatty’ De Ligt

As a young boy, De Ligt was nicknamed Dikkie – something that is hard to imagine today. “It was a bit of bullying,” he says. ‘I ate like a normal child, not very healthy. I didn’t pay attention. When I turned ten, I joined Ajax. The first thing that happened was that the dietician said to me – as a ten-year-old boy – Matthijs, you are too fat. That was when it got so bad in my head.’

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