With everyone away from the Oval for an undetermined period, we have decided to bring Glentoran supporters some of the most compelling content from the multi award winning Glentoran Gazette. We hope you will enjoy the stories and player interviews we bring and that it will encourage you to buy a Gazette at our home matches when football returns. Many thanks to the Glentoran Supporters Committee (1923) for use of this material. The "Team Talks" series will consist of interviews with current squad members with John Grayden this season.
Elvio Van Overbeek
interview with John Grayden
Player liaison – or player support to be accurate – is big business in Europe’s top professional leagues.
While we don’t have the resources of high echelon clubs, player welfare was certainly on Mick McDermott’s mind when he embarked on his summer pan-European signing mission.
A worry about signing overseas players is how quickly they will settle in their new surroundings. Some big names haven’t accomplished it leaving clubs red-faced and millions of pounds worse off.
Moving clubs is part and parcel of a pro footballer’s life. Moving countries and having to cope with different languages, customs, even climates is an altogether different proposition.
The fact that the Glens new flying Dutchman, Elvio van Overbeek, seems to have taken it in his stride as easily as gathering a Hrvoje Plum through ball, may lie in his background.
Uprooting has been part of the 25-year-old winger’s life story. For Elvio was orphaned as a child as a consequence of the little-known but long-standing trouble in the oil and mineral rich northern Angolan province of Cabinda where separatists battle the army.
He was adopted by the van Overbeek family from Dongen, near Breda, in southern Holland at the age of seven.
Off the park Elvio is soft spoken, seems taller, slimmer and wears spectacles. Sitting in a city centre café spooning the froth from his cappuccino he revealed he speaks Dutch, Portuguese, English and a little Spanish.
And, while he occasionally had to search for the right word in the at times noisy restaurant, his English is very good although he is still coming to terms with the Ulster vernacular.
Our version of the language is one of the reasons the Dutch Under 21 international ended up at the Oval. Elvio, who could have gone to clubs in Romania and the Middle East, came to Derry City on trial during the summer but encountered a language barrier. “I couldn’t understand what they were saying. They speak very quickly and seem to use different words for things.
“It’s easier for me in Belfast although in the big group training sessions in the evening I still find it hard to understand everything the boys are saying. It is much easier for me on a one-to-one basis.
“We also have the problem of speaking different languages. Hrvoje Plum’s English for instance is not as good as Marijan Antolovic’s but at least on the field football is our universal language.”
He was at Derry for a week after playing the guts of 200 Dutch second division games for Jong PSV, Go Ahead Eagles, De Graafschap and Telstar when the Glens got in touch.
Another major factor in Elvio’s decision to put pen to paper at the Oval was his discovery that the church he belongs to has established its only Northern Ireland branch minutes from the ground.
The UCKG church at Templemore Street, a building visible from the Albertbridge Road, was opened about a year ago. “I belonged to it in Holland and even in Angola as a child. It is new to Belfast but has branches in 180 countries around the world,” said Elvio.
He spends time at the church on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. “We have a service each day focusing on a particular aspect of life such as family, business or Bible study. I’ve also been doing a little bit of youth work,” he added.
Elvio, who has suffered the usual football problems of injuries at the wrong time and coaches who signed him moving on then being unwanted by the new regime, is adjusting to what is for him a different set-up.
“It is strange for me not being at a club that is full time although the guys in the dressing room have been very good to me,” he said.
The man who as a teenager was linked to Real Madrid and Chelsea is also coming to terms with a different style of football. “The game here is different to Holland in that it is much more physical. There are also a lot more long balls played here.
“I’m used to the ball staying on the ground and the coaches are trying to get us to play in that style. It’s not always possible, as we sometimes have to mix it up and use the longer ball but we are trying to change the traditional style of play here,” he said.
Adaptability shouldn’t be a problem for a man who has played in four different positions in his professional career. “I’ve been used as a winger, a wing back, central striker and a number 10 but at the Glens I’m being asked to play on the right or left wings,” Elvio said.
As for the standard of play he doesn’t think there is a gulf between his past and present clubs. “While I think the Dutch second division is of a higher standard, the difference between it and the Irish League is not as great as that of the Eredivisie,” he added
Elvio, who when he initially joined Glentoran stayed with Paul Millar at Moira, has now been joined in Belfast by his Dutch wife Eliana, a 21-year-old nursing assistant, at their apartment close to the city centre. The couple, who have been married for two years, previously lived in her home city of Rotterdam, a place Elvio thinks is not that different to Belfast.
“People have been friendly to me. I had to ask for directions a few times when I used the bus system to get to training from Moira and they have even slowed down their speech to help me understand,” said Elvio.