Why Suriname Would Have Won The 1998 World Cup

“Across the river lay a peculiar land. The key to its peculiarity lies with its earliest visitors. They’re misfits and dreamers, running away after years of destruction” John Gilmette, 2011

Suriname (aka Surinam and formerly Dutch Guiana) is sandwiched between (British) Guyana and French Guiana in the North East of South America. The indigenous inhabitants were interrupted by European settlers in the 16th century and the region soon became part of the British Empire. However in 1674 the Dutch struck a deal with the English, trading New Amsterdam (then a small trading post in North America, now referred to as ‘New York’) for Suriname; while NYC is indesputably the bigger tourist attraction, there is no doubt that Suriname has produced a far greater stream of talented footballers than the banks of the Hudson and arguably enough to put forward a squad capable of winning France ’98.

The Dutch imported labour from their homeland along with Chinese, Indians, Lebanese, Sephardic Jews (originally from Spain) Ashkenazi Jews (originally from the French-German border) and Indonesians (mainly Javanese) coupled with West African Slaves and the Amerindians already present. It is this diverse ethnic mix that is reflected in the modern Surinamese people and particularly in their cuisine, which combines Chinese, Indian and Caribbean styles of cooking. From Humphrey Mijnals (the first black Surinamese footballer to be capped for the Oranje) in 1960 through to the modern day, the Netherlands national team has also benefitted from this cultural fusion, a result of Suriname’s independence in 1975 after which “Dutch subjects living in the colony of Suriname were given the choice of Dutch or Surinamese citizenship. 200,000 out of a population of 450,000 left Suriname for the Netherlands. Today, the population of Suriname has rebounded to roughly 450,000, while 300,000 people in the Netherlands trace their ancestry to Suriname”. (MCNL Project: http://dutch.berkeley.edu/mcnl/history/immigration/colonial/the-surinamese/)

In fact two of the greatest Dutch players of all time could also have played for the former Dutch colony; Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard would have been eligible having both been born to a Surinamese father and Dutch mother. Born in Amsterdam in September 1962, the childhood friends had incredible playing careers, together winning the 1988 European Championships with Holland and back-to-back European Cups in 1989 and 1990 with AC Milan, combining their expressive, carefree style with the lethal proficiency of compatriot Marco Van Basten. By the time of France ’98 however, both had hung up their boots and were beginning to forge careers in management, Gullit playing his final season as player-coach of Chelsea in 1997/98 after which he was contraversially sacked by Ken Bates and Rijkaard retiring much earlier, after winning the 1994/95 Champions League in his farewell season with Ajax.


So although the Netherlands has undoubtedly benefitted from the historical links between the two nations, the problem now facing Suriname is that “government policy prevents former residents who have taken up Dutch citizenship from playing for Suriname. So all those Surinamese playing in Holland who aren’t quite good enough to make the Oranje cannot enrich the team of their homeland either. Thus the Surinamese national team is made up almost entirely of amateurs from its domestic league”. (For more information see:http://eurasian-sensation.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/surinamese-footballing-diaspora.html) It can doubtless be argued that the standard of coaching the Dutch/Surinamese have received in the Netherlands has made them the players they are today, however it could equally be argued that the lack of unity between the players of Dutch and Surinamese descent has cost the national team over the years, demonstrated by the now-infamous infighting at Euro 96 (When Saturday Comes Euro ’96 Special: http://www.wsc.co.uk/content/view/6908/29/) which saw Edgar Davids sent home.

As such, if the Suriname FA had successfully lobbied their government, what follows is the “Suriboys” team that arguably could have triumphed in Saint-Denis on 12th July 1998.

1. Stanley Menzo Born: Paramaribo, Suriname 15/10/1963 – 34 years

Leading up to the 1998 World Cup, Menzo had played 10 games in Ligue 1 for Bordeaux in the 1997/98 Season. Although he would ultimately be ousted by upcoming young goalkeeper Ulrich Ramé, Menzo had amassed much greater experience between the sticks at Ajax between 1983 and 1994, making 249 appearances for the Amsterdam club and collecting winners medals in the Eredivisie, KNVB Cup, UEFA Cup and UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. The emergence of Edwin van der Sar and an awful mistake during a Champions League match against Auxerre for Ajax in 1993 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jISWdC3LxC8) did him no favours, however he did set a record as the Dutch goalkeeper with the longest run of clean sheets in European competition.

2. Michael Reiziger Born: Amstelveen, Netherlands 02/05/1973 –  25 Years

Born in Netherlands to Surinamese parents, prior to the World Cup in France the buck-toothed right-back had already won the Champions League with Ajax in 1995 and endured an injury-plagued time at AC Milan before arriving at Barcelona in 1997, where he promptly won La Liga and the Copa Del Rey in his first season.

3. Winston Bogarde Born: Amsterdam, Netherlands 22/10/70 – 27 Years

Another Dutch-born player of Surinamese lineage to emerge from the Ajax academy, the powerful left-back was part of the triumphant 1995 Champions League squad before also moving to Milan in 1997. Following a frustrating spell at the Guiseppe Meazza during which he made only three appearances, Bogarde joined Louis Van Gaal’s Dutch revolution at Barcelona in early 1998 where he too won the La Liga title and Spanish Cup before heading off to France ’98. Having filled his trophy cabinet Bogarde would end his career in a farcical fashion at Chelsea where, despite only making nine appearances in four years and the London club’s constant attempts to offload him, he opted to see out his lucrative contract rather than seek regular football elsewhere, due to his inability to find another club that would match his reported £40k per week salary. Of his decision Bogarde later said: “Why should I throw fifteen million Euro away when it is already mine? At the moment I signed it was in fact my money, my contract.”

4. Ulrich van Gobbel Born: Paramaribo, Suriname 16/01/1971 – 27 Years

Known affectionately to fans as “De Tank”, Van Gobbel spent a year in the Premier League with Southampton but was back in the Netherlands during the 1997/98 season for a second spell with Feyenoord, the club with whom he had spent the majority of his career. Ulrich remains a cult hero amongst Saints and Feyenoord fans alike and there is still a crucial video montage available here: http://www.facebook.com/vangobbel/videos

5. Ken Monkou Born: Nickerie, Suriname 29/11/1964 – 33 Years

A popular figure at both Chelsea (where he won Player of the Year award in 1990) and then Southampton, the athletic, classy centre back already had a wealth of Premier League experience by the time France ’98 arrived. His parents ran a Bistro and so when Ken hung up his boots he followed the family trade by opening his own establishment, “The Old Pancake House” in Delft (http://fourfourtwo.com/interviews/whathappenednext/367/article.aspx)

6. Edgar Davids Born: Paramaribo, Suriname 15/03/1973 – 25 Years

Born in Suriname to an African father and a Jewish mother, the diminutive, glaucoma-suffering midfield general also came through the ranks at Ajax where he won 3 Eredivisie (1993–94, 1994–95, 1995–96), 1 KNVB Cups (1992–93), 3 Johan Cruijff Schaal (1993, 1994, 1995), 1 UEFA Champions League (1994–95), 1 UEFA Cup (1991–92), 1 UEFA Super Cup (1995) and 1 Intercontinental Cup (1995). Davids then followed the by now well-established route of migration from Amsterdam to Italy, leaving for AC Milan in the summer of 1996 where he had a solitary frustrating season before joining Juventus in 1997 and winning the Scudetto at the first time of asking. Seen below tussling with close friend and fellow Surinam-born Dutch team-mate Clarence Seedorf during the 1998 Champions League Final.

7. Aron Winter Born: Paramaribo, Suriname 01/03/1967 – 31 Years

Winter was of Hindustani descent, making him the greatest player that India never produced (granted Baichung Bhutia and Ricky Heppolette hardly provide much in the way of healthy competition). The earliest of the De Toekomst alumni to feature in this team, Aron won a solitary Eredivisie title before leaving Ajax in 1992 for Lazio, where he had to hide his Jewish background (http://gameintelligence.co.uk/2011/01/25/dream-team-jewish-football-xi-3/) from notoriously far-right Biancocelesti ultras. He then moved on to Inter, where he won the 1997/98 UEFA Cup in the season leading up to the World Cup in France.

8. Clarence Seedorf Born: Paramaribo, Suriname 01/04/1976 – 22 Years

Another graduate of the glorious mid-90s Ajax team, Clarence won many of the same trophies as his former Ajax team-mate Davids and also moved to Italy a year earlier than his close friend, joining Sampdoria in the summer of 1995. Real Madrid liked what they saw and brought Clarence to the Santiago Bernabéu after just one season in Genoa, where he was the mainstay of a team that won the Spanish La Liga title in his first season and followed this by winning the Champions League in 1997/98. Going into the finals he was one of the most gifted young footballers of his generation.

9. Patrick Kluivert Born: Amsterdam, Netherlands 01/07/76 – 21 Years

Qualifies as his father, a professional footballer, was born in Calcutta, Suriname (not to be confused with the Anglicised Indian city) and his mother hails from Curaçao (an Island in the Caribbean off the coast of Suriname).  Another member of the Golden Generation of Ajax players, Kluivert signed for AC Milan on a Bosman free transfer in 1997 and endured an underwhelming first season (6 goals in 27 appearances) in the build up to the World Cup. In 1997 the striker was also charged with manslaughter following his involvement in a fatal car accident prior to Euro ’96 in which Marten Putman, a theatre director, was killed; he was found guilty and received community service and a driving ban. Kluivert arrived in France with a point to prove and an exciting move to Barcelona on the cards.

10. Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink Born: Paramaribo, Suriname 27/03/1972 – 26 Years

Although thoroughly rubbish while playing in the Netherlands for Telstar, AZ Alkmaar and a plethora of amateur clubs, Jimmy-Floyd headed to Portugal where he unexpectedly became a goal scoring machine at Campomaiorense and Boavista. Scouted by Leeds United, George Graham took him to West Yorkshire for just £2 million in the summer of 1997 and he continued to burst the net for Leeds in the Premier League, scoring 16 times in 33 appearances during his first season to clinch a place in the 1998 Netherlands World Cup squad.

11. Regi Blinker Born: Paramaribo, Suriname 04/06/1969 – 29 Years

Fondly remembered by Sheffield Wednesday supporters, after just one season for the Owls the former Feyenoord winger was part of the deal that brought Paulo Di Canio south of the border from Celtic and sent Regi off to the land of pizza crunch and deep-fried Mars bars. A regular starter running up to France ’98, Blinker won the 1997/98 Scottish Premier League title with the Glasgow club. At the height of his career Blinker clinched an endorsement contract with a major brand of sunglasses, however the deal was abandoned after it emerged that he had been mistaken for Edgar Davids.


Fabian De Freitas Born: Paramaribo, Suriname 28/07/1972 – 25 Years

“Fabiaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanoooooo” as he was christened by cult-hero Bolton Wanderers Club Commentator, Dave “Ding Dong Do” Higson (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vU0rinnxqM) for his role in the Trotters 1995 play off win over Reading (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEYTa7-RMg4), the lanky hitman had a poor first season in the Premier League in 1995/96 and headed off to Spain the following summer to join Osasuna for a reported £250,000. Still revered by many in the Lancastrian mill town, he was another player with a point to prove in ’98 after a lukewarm debut season in the Segunda Division.

Dean Gorré Born: Paramaribo, Suriname 10/09/1970 – 27 Years

The former Groningen, Feyenoord and SVV/Dordrecht’90 midfielder had a promising first season with Ajax in the build up to the finals, making 22 appearances and winning the Eredivisie and KNVB Cup double in 1997/98.

Nordin Wooter Born: Paramaribo, Suriname 24/08/1976 – 21 Years

Another successful product of the Ajax academy, having collected Eredivisie, Champions League, European Super Cup and Club World Cup winners’ medals as a teenager, the dreadlocked winger had just completed his first season in Spain for Real Zaragoza.

Below is a photograph of the Holland team that lined up to face Brazil in their World Cup semi-final at the Stade Velodrome, Marseille on 7th July 1998. Kluivert, Davids and Reiziger all started the game while Seedorf, Winter, Hasselbaink, and Bogarde were amongst those on the bench. In stark contrast, Suriname have barely tested the waters of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying (not even entering for in 1990) and although they won the 1977 CFU Championship, currently have a FIFA ranking high of 84th (August 2008).

Judging from France’s defeat at the hands of their former colony Senegal at the South Korea-Japan World Cup in 2002, this theory is not as far fetched as it initially sounds. This prospective Suriname team share a lot in common with the Senegal squad of 2002, as many of the latter were brought up and coached in France in Paris (Fadiga), Rennes (Diouf) and in the sovereign city state tax-haven of Monaco (Diao), yet chose (or perhaps more poignantly had the freedom to choose) to play for their country of birth. Indeed this is a contentious issue in French football at the moment, as demonstrated by the leaked minutes of a 2010 meeting between Laurent Blanc and Francois Blaquart in which FFF members discussed the possibility of introducing a quota for players of dual nationality within national youth academies, in order to avoid developing players who would then go on to represent other nations. (See Phillipe Auclair’s Article in issue 2 of the Blizzard – http://www.theblizzard.co.uk/product/issue-two-print/).

When the Netherlands beat Germany in a 2000 friendly, six of the team and the manager were Surinamese. For those back in Paramaribo watching that game on television (especially those involved in Suriname politics from the 1970s onwards) their hearts must be filled with regret for excluding those who left.


“Wild Coast: Travels on South America’s Untamed Edge” – John Gimlette (2011) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-Coast-Travels-Americas-Untamed/dp/1846682525 

“Brilliant Orange” – David Winner (2000) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Brilliant-Orange-Neurotic-Genius-Football/dp/0747553106
(Particularly p.221 onwards “The boys from Paramaribo”)

This article was inspired by a piece in When Saturday Comes covering the same topic; if anyone has it or can find it please let me know!


10 Comments on “Why Suriname Would Have Won The 1998 World Cup”

  1. Great article – would have been fascinating to see!

  2. […] Formação da Holanda que Disputou a Copa do Mundo de 1998. Em pé: Edwin Van der Sar, Dennis Bergkamp, Jaap Stam, Wim Jonk, Philip Cocu e Patrick Kluivert; Agachados: Edgar Davids, Michael Reiziger, Frabk de Boer, Boudewijn Zenden e Ronald de Boer. Crédito: http://www.makingplansfornigel.wordpress.com […]

  3. hagi says:

    great players

  4. K Street says:

    Such an interesting article! Thanks for your insight!

  5. Andre says:

    Now That would have been something. Results can come from different directions Players, Coaches, Political Leaders, the soccer world. And within 2 – 3 years the base will change of the current level of the game whereas the local “amateurs” will do more then their best to also be on level as the Suriname/Netherlands player.

  6. […] provenienti dall’ex colonia (una volta nota come Guyana Olandese) sono 7 su 23. Il blog Making plans for Nigel ha proposto nel 2012 l’ipotetico “undici” del Suriname che avrebbe potuto […]

  7. […] provenienti dall’ex colonia (una volta nota come Guyana Olandese) sono 7 su 23. Il blog Making plans for Nigel ha proposto nel 2012 l’ipotetico “undici” del Suriname che avrebbe potuto partecipare ai […]

    • bobbymchugh says:

      Grazie per aver letto!
      I read your article this morning (with the help of Google translate), good work! It explores alot of areas I didn’t – fascinating stuff. I know you think the defence would have been the weak point… maybe your right Thuram, Desailly, Lizarazu and Leboeuf were probably better but Barthez was always capable of a high profile mistake

  8. […] provenienti dall’ex colonia (una volta nota come Guyana Olandese) sono 7 su 23. Il blog Making plans for Nigel ha proposto nel 2012 l’ipotetico “undici” del Suriname che avrebbe potuto […]

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