Hans Vonk owes his international career to the South African soccer publication Kick Off, which uncovered the fact he had been born in the country and flagged up his availability long before any of the coaching staff had ever got to hear about him.
Vonk was born in Alberton, on the outskirts of Johannesburg, but left while still a toddler with his Dutch parents, who had been working in the country for a short while. Attention was first drawn to the giant goalkeeper as far back as 1996, but the then South Africa coach Clive Barker laughed off the idea. But when Frenchman Philippe Troussier took over Bafana Bafana before the 1998 World Cup, he was quick to call up the Heerenveen goalkeeper, already established among the leading custodians in the Dutch League.
Vonk got a back-door invitation to France 98 and did not hesitate to take it. However, he has had to contend with some ill-timed international commitments since then, not all of them in tune with his ambitions with Heerenveen.
At the African Nations Cup finals in Ghana and Nigeria two years ago he sat on the bench for all but one game. This was a bizarre selection decision by coach Trott Moloto, who seemed intent on punishing the quietly-spoken Vonk for not being available for all of the qualifying matches ahead of the finals.
Vonk bit his tongue and stayed clear of controversy, particularly because sectors of the South African media were keen to question his ‘national’ loyalty. He has struggled to win over the fans but has mostly been a victim of some poor defending.
New coach Carlos Queiroz has recognised his competence, and barring injury or loss of form he will go to the Far East as South Africa’s first-choice goalkeeper.
Vonk’s club career started at Dutch side VV Woudrichem but it was at RKC Waalwijk that he first came to prominence. He has since been a major factor in the rise to prominence of another provincial club, Heerenveen. The team finished runners-up in the Dutch League in 1999-2000, allowing Vonk some invaluable Champions League experience last season.
Club Heerenveen (Hol)
Country South Africa
Born January 30, 1970, in Alberton
Previous clubs VV Woudrichem (Hol), RKC Waalwijk (Hol)
International debut May 1998, v Zambia
International caps 21