The events on the 8th of July surrounding Abdelhak Nouri left me in shock. Of course, I’ve seen the videos of other players collapsing on the pitch and those were terrible as well, but this one has me shook. Our Appie, our little mastermind with a permanent smile and the brightest of futures, suddenly collapsed.
I watched the game live and saw it happening. My mind passed it off as a heat stroke. Deep down however, I knew something was wrong. There was something odd about the way he went down. As I am writing this, I play the clip back in my mind. It still makes me nauseous seeing him go down. Minutes passed and I did not move. The living room was quiet, just me breathing heavily. The only movement in the room was a tear developing in the corner of my eye and rolling down my cheek ever so slowly. My mind tried to steer clear from premature conclusions, but there was one thought that stuck with me. Had I just witnessed the death of our Appie?
The lack of movement in his legs as seconds ticked by was the most striking thing to me. These legs that had brought him to where he was. I first saw those legs in action at the 2014 edition of the Future Cup, a tournament for youth teams hosted at De Toekomst. The Ajax u16 side was terrifyingly strong. With the likes of Václav Černý, Donny van de Beek and captain Abdelhak Nouri in the squad they would go on to reach the final, against Liverpool. One player in particular was in amazing form. It was Nouri. He was the one who made it all happen for Ajax, and you could tell he had a bright future ahead of him. The Amsterdam youngsters beat their English opponent to claim the trophy, with Nouri rightfully named as player of the tournament.
Since then I have always had a weak spot for Appie. He doesn’t know who I am, but for some reason I still feel a great connection to him. When he made his debut for the first team and scored, I was proud. Proud as if he were a friend of mine. That same connection brought me to tears at that horrible moment in Austria. Seeing that happen to someone you truly admire is one of the worst feelings in the world.
Moments like these truly puts your own life in perspective. Life’s value is underestimated. We should be thankful for every great moment in our life, because before you know it it can be over. I just hope that I will get to see Appie’s legs in action again. The same legs that made me fall in love with his abilities three years back. The same legs that were destined to make the Johan Cruijff ArenA fall in love with him. I pray that one day, I will see Appie’s legs doing the thing they are best at. Making me forget the moment imprinted in my mind of his legs now. Motionless.