Interview: Nico Van Kerckhoven
Another week, another interview! This week we caught Nico Van Kerckhoven to tell us what he felt on the pitch during his games. Nico Van Kerckhoven was a Belgian top defender who retired 5 years ago while playing at KVC Westerlo.
Nico started his carreer at KFC Lint. He went to SK Lierse at the age of 18 and stayed there for 10 years. He featured in 232 games and scored 25 goals. After winning the league title with SK Lierse and playing in the Champions League, he moved to Schalke 04. His six year spell at Die Königsblauen was very successful, making 134 appearances, scoring 5 goals and winning 2 cup titles. In 2004 he moved from Schalke to Borussia Mönchengladbach where he played 19 games in his only season there.
His last club was KVC Westerlo where he stayed for 5 years and appearing 135 times on the teamsheet and scoring 2 goals.
Nico Van Kerckhoven also was a regular in the Belgian national team, collecting 42 caps and scoring 3 goals. With the national team he appeared on the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cup and played at the European Championship in 2000.
Nico, you played in brand new stadiums during the 2002 South Korea – Japan World Cup but also in renowned stadiums like Munichs Olympic Stadium and Dortmunds Westfalenstadion. Which stadium was for you the most impressive one and why?
The Westfalenstadium was the most remarkable stadium in which I played a game. It was also because I was playing for Schalke04 which are Dortmunds biggest rivals. Especially the fans behind one of the goals were very impressive! As being a football player you always feel some kind of pressure but for me that pressure turned into adrenline after the first whistle. I was always very focused and I managed to turn that pressure into positive energy. Ofcourse this was fed by the fans.
In which stadium did you feel the most atmosphere and pressure?
As I said it was in the Westfalenstadium. Ofcourse it makes a difference when you play for 10.000 fans or in front of 70.000 fans. However, I mostly paid attention to it before or after the game because I was too focused on my game. But in the end, and certainly when you win a game, it makes a big difference to celebrate with a few hundreds or a few thousands.
Can you describe how it feels to win a German cupfinal in front of 70.000 spectators?
As a player you go completely nuts. Winning that cup twice in Berlin in front of all those passionate Schalke fans was amazing. Also just the fact that you helped your club reaching an achievement gave an overwhelming feeling.
During your carreer you played against many renowned football players. Who is for you personally the best opponent you played against?
One of the best, who I faced as a direct opponent, was Ryan Giggs. We played against him with the Belgian national team in a game against Wales. His technical ability, pace, stamina, composure, … unbelievable!
You won the league title with SK Lierse, 2 times the German cup with Schalke04 and you were selected for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. Which of these moments still gives you a thrill?
Winning the Belgian title with SK Lierse still gives me shivers! We were all young, local guys who went through the fire for eachother and managed to win the league with a relatively low budget. I’m sure it’s nearly impossible nowadays to win the league with a relatively low budget.