Peter Leeuwen­burgh

It’s been a lit­eral fairy tale ride for the Dutch goal­keeper, who went from be­ing un­em­ployed to Cape Town City star in the space of two months.

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Three months ago, new Cape Town City goal­keeper Peter Leeuwen­burgh was un­em­ployed, an anx­ious free agent fol­low­ing his re­lease by Ajax Am­s­ter­dam after 14 years with the Dutch gi­ants, with his fu­ture wor­ry­ingly un­cer­tain as the start of the new sea­son loomed ever closer. Merely 43 days later, the tall shot-stop­per’s name cov­ered the back pages of news­pa­pers all over South Africa fol­low­ing his semi-fi­nal penalty shootout hero­ics against the mighty Mamelodi Sundowns as he sin­gle-hand­edly helped his new club to a con­sec­u­tive MTN8 fi­nal. KICK OFF’s Fabio De Do­mini­cis sat down with City’s new num­ber one as he re­flected on his in­cred­i­ble jour­ney to South Africa.

Peter Leeuwen­burgh can’t help but gig­gle as he re­calls the first time his five-year-old self stood be­tween the now very fa­mil­iar goal posts and put on a pair of goal­keeper gloves. “I started play­ing foot­ball when I was five years old at my lo­cal foot­ball club, and played as an out­field player for two weeks,” he be­gins, as we sit in the warm spring sun­shine on the stands at Hart­ley­vale Sta­dium, Cape Town City’s train­ing base. “We didn’t have a goal­keeper, and had to change goal­keeper ev­ery game. When it was my turn, I said to my mom, ‘I like this T-shirt, I want to keep it.’ So my mom said to the coach, ‘You have a new goal­keeper!’” The rest, as the cliché goes, his his­tory. Fol­low­ing five years at his lo­cal vil­lage club, the in­creas­ingly-im­pres­sive young­ster was then spot­ted at a lo­cal tour­na­ment by Ajax Am­s­ter­dam scouts, who in­vited him for a trial. And as a pas­sion­ate Ajax fan, the next step was a no-brainer.

“THE DOC­TOR TOLD ME THAT IF I WENT FOR SURGERY AGAIN, THERE WAS A CHANCE I COULD NEVER RE­TURN TO THE SAME LEVEL I WAS BE­FORE.”

“If Ajax calls, of course you go!” he ex­claims. There was a slight prob­lem, how­ever: the Leeuwen­burgh fam­ily lived in Oud-Bei­jer­land, some 100 kilo­me­tres away from Am­s­ter­dam. “Am­s­ter­dam was a 1 hour and 10 minute drive away from my home­town, so it was a tough choice, but my par­ents said, ‘ We are go­ing to do it if you want it,’” he re­calls. “So they drove me there ev­ery day, and changed their whole work sched­ule for me. School would nor­mally fin­ish at 4pm, but I’d leave at 2pm to drive to Am­s­ter­dam, train and then come back home. We did this ev­ery day for two years.” Leeuwen­burgh’s fam­ily then re­lo­cated to a town closer to Am­s­ter­dam, fol­low­ing which the club would col­lect the young teenage foot­ballerf from school, take him to train­ing and drop him off at home at the end of the day, along with sev­eral other team­mates. “I was al­ways the last one dropped off, so I’d only get home at around 9 o’clock in the evening,” the goal­keeper re­mem­bers. Train­ing along­side now house­hold names Chris­tian Erik­sen [ Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur], Davy Klaassen [ Werder Bre­men], and Vik­tor Fis­cher [FC Copen­hagen], grad­u­at­ing to the next age group in the Ajax academy was no easy feat, yet Leeuwen­burgh’s ob­vi­ous tal­ent en­sured his pro­gres­sion through the ranks, be­fore fi­nally be­ing handed the ul­ti­mate prize, and what ev­ery young­ster within the club’s struc­tures dreamt of: a first team con­tract. “I made it to the first team as the third-choice goal­keeper – Jasper Cil­lessen [cur­rent Nether­lands first-choice goal­keeper] was at the time the first-choice, so it was re­ally good to be able to train with him,” he says.

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