Bart Straalman: Grenoble, De Graafschap and Norwegian Football

Credit: Grenoble Foot 38

You signed for Grenoble Foot 38 in 2020. How are you enjoying your time at the club so far and how would you describe a club such as Grenoble Foot 38?

I am enjoying my time at Grenoble Foot 38 so far. We are in a special season due to the covid 19 pandemic not just here in France but all countries over the world. Grenoble Foot 38 are a great club and you get the feeling that it is very much a family club and up until now things have been very positive.

You came through the youth setup and went on to make over 100 appearances for De Graafschap. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any highlights or special memories?

Credit: degraafschap / twitter

Yes, My time at De Graafschap was very special. I arrived at the club at the age of 12 following a successful talent day and I also went to school in Doetinchem. I spent a long time at the club and in the area. De Graafschap will always stay in my heart due to the fact that I came through the youth setup and went on to play five seasons for the club and make over 100 appearances for the club. It was a very special time of my life.

You played abroad in Norway for Sarpsborg 08. How do you look back on your first experience playing in a foreign country and what are your memories and highlights from your time at the club?

My time in Norway was special in the fact that it was the first time that I ever played professional football abroad. It was also the first time that I lived independently so many big steps at once. In a sporting sense it did not go very well unfortunately as I only played two games for the first team when I was for an unknown reason which I still do not know where I was taken out of the team.

After that I didn’t really get a fair chance so in that sense it was frustrating but I still learned a lot and made big steps personally. Sarpsborg 08 remains my first club abroad and I got to know many nice people. The experience was not what I hoped in terms of playing matches but I still learned an awful lot.

You have accrued a lot of experience at club level in the Netherlands, Norway and now France, could you say who are among the best players you have played alongside so far in your career?

Credit: http://www.rusg.brussels/article/nathan-kabasele-premiere-interview

That is a great question. I remember Nathan Kabasele who came on loan to us at De Graafschap from RSC Anderlecht and he had played in the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund and he had experienced a lot in his career even though he did not show all his talent a De Graafschap but he had a lot of talent and was in my eyes a very special player.

I can imagine in your position as a defender that you have come up against many difficult opponents through the years, could you say which opponents have stood out for you in terms of talent and ability?

There are two opponents that stand out for me. During my first full season for De Graafschap I played against Vincent Janssen who was playing for Almere City at the time and I was a really young and inexperienced player and I remember often having to go to the gym to enhance my power and Vincent Janssen was also a very strong player and in that game I had a lot of difficulty to defend against him.

Credit: cchana / Vincent Janssen lining up to take a penalty against England at Wembley for the Netherlands.

In my last season for De Graafschap I played against Alexander Isak who is a Swedish striker on loan at Willem II at the time. You can see how well he is doing in his career now playing for Real Sociedad in Spain and I can tell you that he is a great player.

Credit: Rolandhino1 / Wikimedia Sverige

Finally Bart, could you say who are the coaches and managers who have meant a lot to you and played a key role in your development as a professional footballer?

I want to make sure that I believe that you learn something from every manager for example even my time in Norway where I did not play very often and did not get on with the manager I still learn something. I think the important trainers from the beginning are the managers from youth football.

Wim van Zeist was my manager for a whole season as well as being technique coach at different clubs and I learned so much from him. He was a manager with something extra. He took a lot of training sessions and laid the foundations for me especially in terms of stressing the importance of ball control and I believe that he has had a massive influence on my career.

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