Dennis Bergkamp, ​​the genius who resigned from the Netherlands because of his phobia of airplanes

The 98 World Cup in France continues to be, to this day, one of the tournaments most remembered by soccer fans, who look forward to the start of Qatar 2022. One of the footballers who dazzled in that competition was Dennis Bergkamp, ​​the Dutch striker who became the top scorer for his team with three goals, the last of which was described as a “genius”.

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Bergkamp he appeared in all his splendor in the quarterfinals of France 98, against the Argentine team, when the game was tied 1-1. He was running in the 90th minute and took advantage of a long pass from Frank De Boer to cushion the ball with great quality and, in turn, elude defender Roberto Ayala with a cut. Facing goalkeeper Roa, he defined with the outside of his right boot and nailed it in the corner.

Dennis Bergkamp celebrates the winning goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. (Photo: RABIH MOGHRABI / AFP)

The goal allowed the Netherlands to reach the semifinal and, to the regret of Bergkamp’s fans, it was, ultimately, his last World Cup masterpiece. A few days after the Netherlands were eliminated by Brazil in a dramatic penalty shootout, he announced that he would not play in the next World Cup, which everyone considered the Netherlands to have qualified.

The Dutchman was just 29 years old and traveling by land to the venues in Korea Japan was practically impossible. He had arrived in France by boat and moving that way to distant lands had him “annoyed”, as various media of the time described.

His phobia of airplanes

In June 1989, a plane that had left Amsterdam for Suriname with 182 passengers and nine crew members crashed. According to newspapers of the time such as 168 people died and among the victims were 23 Surinamese soccer players who played in the Dutch first division.

The news affected Dennis Bergkamp, ​​who was 20 years old and was already emerging as one of the stars of Ajax, the Eredivisie team in which he played until 1993.

Thanks to his great performances, he was summoned by the ‘Clockwork Orange’ and the first relevant competitions he played were the 1992 Euro Cup and the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

Precisely, in the World Cup that year, another event occurred that convinced him not to get on a plane again. In one of the transfers of the European team, as he remembers , “a journalist played a joke on a flight attendant about planting a bomb”. This episode shocked Bergkamp, ​​who vowed never to fly again.

Despite the awkward moment, Bergkamp had a remarkable World Cup and scored three goals in the 1994 World Cup.

In the group stage of the 1994 World Cup in the United States, the Netherlands faced Morocco.  The match was favorable to the European team 2-1 and Bergkamp scored one of the goals.  (Photo: Kazuhiro NOGI/AFP)

In the group stage of the 1994 World Cup in the United States, the Netherlands faced Morocco. The match was favorable to the European team 2-1 and Bergkamp scored one of the goals. (Photo: Kazuhiro NOGI/AFP)

The clauses for not getting on a plane.

After making himself known at Ajax, the elegant Dutch player had a short stint at Inter Milan and in 1995 ended up at Arsenal, where he became the top figure, until 2006.

His phobia of airplanes led Bergkamp to include clauses in his contracts that exempted him from flying. For this reason, he was absent in many away matches for the English team and the times he was encouraged to participate, he had to travel several kilometers by land to reach Spain, Germany, or some other country on the European continent.

Dennis Bergkamp is considered one of the best footballers that happened in the history of Arsenal in England.  (Photo: NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP).

Dennis Bergkamp is considered one of the best footballers that happened in the history of Arsenal in England. (Photo: NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP).

“In contract negotiations, if Arsenal said 1 million, they would instantly say ‘but we’re going to deduct 100 thousand because you don’t fly with the team.’ And I accepted it”recounted in his autobiography.

Holland’s farewell

Euro 200 was the last international event that Dennis Bergkamp played with the Netherlands. Because it took place in Belgium and his country, it was not necessary to travel long stretches and the 31-year-old striker was present at the matches.

Unfortunately, she could not say goodbye in style to one of the hosts, as she was eliminated by Italy in a penalty shootout, in one of the tournament’s semifinals. ‘The ‘Man Who Doesn’t Fly’, as he was nicknamed in England, didn’t even get a chance to shoot from eleven steps. He was replaced by Clarence Seedorf in the 86th minute.

But not only Bargkamp was the great absentee from the 2002 World Cup, but also the entire Dutch squad. In one of the most surprising events in the world of soccer, they were eliminated in the European Qualifiers and put an end to a brilliant generation of soccer players.

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