Daley Blind has said the Netherlands are drawing inspiration at the World Cup from Louis van Gaal’s recovery from cancer.
The Netherlands head coach revealed in April that he had received 25 radiation treatments for an aggressive form of prostate cancer, having kept the diagnosis from his players during their World Cup qualifying campaign. They had been unaware Van Gaal was wearing a catheter beneath his tracksuit during training sessions or that he was spending nights after matches in hospital.
Van Gaal has said the treatment “had done its job”, enabling him to lead the Netherlands into the quarter‑finals of the World Cup in what could be his final role in football. Blind said the 71-year-old’s illness, and how he handled the situation, is on the players’ minds in Qatar.
“Of course it is in the back of our heads,” the Ajax defender said. “From the first moment we didn’t know about it. He did everything he could to keep it from us. He was even going to the hospital during the nights, so as not to show the team what he was going through.
“We have so much respect for how he is coping with this disease at the moment. But he is as sharp as usual. He is Louis van Gaal and he will never change. What you see is what you get. He is a great personality and we are very happy that he is with us.
“He always knows how to inspire players. It’s in the back of our heads but we don’t need any extra motivation. We want to win every game, we want to play for our coach and we want to go as far as we can.”
Blind’s father, Danny, is Van Gaal’s assistant at the World Cup and the pair shared an emotional embrace after the former Manchester United player scored the Netherlands’ second goal in their last-16 victory against the USA on Saturday.
Blind Jr said: “I can’t remember what he said to me – he just grabbed me! It was just a moment between father and son. We will talk about it again when we drink a coffee in the morning and in the evening when we drink a glass of red wine.
“It is crazy having this experience together. I’m just proud we can share it. This is what kids dream about: scoring in a World Cup or even being able to play in a World Cup. What can you say? There is a lot of joy, a lot of emotion and happiness. This is what we are here for.”