The Northern Advocate

Dapper van Gaal fond of hugs, big kisses and dancing

- Ronald Blum

Three wins from the title that has eluded the Netherland­s, Louis van Gaal has filled his World Cup with hugs, kisses and dancing. Leading his nation for the third time at age 71, he is the tournament’s oldest coach. He also may be the most dapper, pacing the sideline in a neon orange tie, dark business suit and dress shoes. Van Gaal has the Dutch on a 19-game unbeaten streak going into tomorrow’s quarter-final against Lionel Messi and Argentina.

Known as the Iron Tulip, he has entertaine­d off the field as much as his players have on the pitch.

Van Gaal responded to praise from a Senegalese reporter 25 minutes into a news conference with an excited: “Oh, I can hug you. I’ll give you a big, fat hug later”, according to his translator.

And after the news conference, LVG did just that, beckoning for Papa Mahmoud Gueye to meet him at the side of stage, then wrapping his arms around the 28-year-old and giving him eight pats on the back followed by a tap on the face.

A few days later, van Gaal puckered up.

He was seated next to Denzel Dumfries, who scored one goal and assisted on two others in the 3-1 win over the United States that put the Dutch in the quarter-finals. A reporter from Aruba asked van Gaal how proud he was of the defender, who has an Aruban father.

“Yesterday or a day before yesterday, I gave him a big fat kiss. I am going to give him another big fat kiss so everybody can see,” the coach said.

He leaned over, put an arm around the player and placed a smack near Dumfries’ right ear. A short while later, van Gaal followed his players on a jubilant dance line while arriving at the St. Regis Doha.

Quite different from his demeanour after the 2-0 win over host Qatar, when a Dutch reporter told him the result wasn’t enough.

“Of course, you can give your opinion. I don’t agree with you and I’m not going to expand on that because I think that you have a different perspectiv­e on football than I have,” van Gaal said.

“So why don’t you write that down, that you think it is terribly boring, that you’re going home tomorrow because you couldn’t care less?”

Ahead of the US match, he had described criticism as a constant.

“If I have to believe the Dutch media, we’ll never become world champion,” van Gaal said.

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