Orlando Smeekes - Fact File

Maritzburg’s Orlando Smeekes Enjoying Life The PSL

Maritzburg United midfielder Orlando Smeekes has been troubled by injuries since he joined the club at the beginning of last season and being on the wrong side of 30, there could be suggestions that the Dutchman is in South Africa to make a quick buck before calling it quits in the game, but he says that's far from being the case. He had an interview with Sabie Chilli, The outspoken player talks about his tough upbringing and also shares his views on the strengths and weaknesses of South African football.

Personal Information
Full Name: Orlando Smeekes
Date of Birth: 28 December 1981
Place of birth: Amsterdam, Netherlands

Position: Midfielder
Jersey no: 11

Current Club: Maritzburg United
Previous Clubs: Hellenic, Mamelodi Sundowns and Moroka Swallows

Fievo Boys Academy
SC Heerenveen Academy
Stormvogels Telstar
FC Volendam
Helmond Sport
Go Ahead Eagles(all Holland)
Stuttgarter Kickers
FC Carl Zeiss Jena
SV Wehen Wiesbaden (all Germany)

Before we go any further, what made you decide to come all the way from the Netherlands to play your football in South Africa?
Well, I started out at the Heerenveen Academy and from there went to second and first division clubs. Then when I was 26, I went to Germany, where I played in the third division. You know, the third division in Germany cannot be compared to third divisions in other countries because sometimes you were playing in front of 30 000 fans. At our stadium we had an average attendance of between 8000 and 12000 every week. I still had a contract in Germany, but I didn`t play so much anymore and I didn`t like the club so much. I know Ernst Midderndorp and he also knows me from Germany, so he asked me to come and play for Maritzburg United. I made my decision quite quickly and didn`t have any doubts.  You now my stepfather (Gertan Verbeek) is the coach of FC Nurnberg in the Bundesliga now. He took care of me. He told me this is a nice opportunity for me. I also know Hans Vonk, as he played for Heerenveen. He also supported the idea of me coming to South Africa and said it`s a great opportunity and that it`s nice here. To be honest, I really like it and I`m enjoying being in South Africa.

Most players from Europe come here to wind down their careers, especially if they are injury-prone and on the wrong side of 30.
No. To be honest, I don`t know what I think about that because everybody knows the money overseas is better than in South Africa. So I didn`t do it for the money. I`m not a money player. I don`t play for money at all. I just enjoy soccer. I need to be happy. I get full support from my club. It`s a really nice club that I`m at. My Boss, Farook Kadodia is really there for the club and it`s like a small family. It`s not that I want to end my career in South Africa, because I`m still quick and I can still do many things hey.

We understand you had a trial with Coventry City in England before moving to Maritzburg United.
I could have signed a contract there. When I went to the third division in Germany, I had offers from first division clubs in the Netherlands. But, like I said, I don`t play for money. My Agent dropped me off in England and I called him and told him, “you need to bring me to Germany”. He told me, “yeah, but, Orlando, you`re going to the third division there. What are you going to do there? You`re not going to improve your soccer.” The main thing for me is…I want to be happy. You know, I also come from a bit of a rough background, so the main thing for me is to be happy. Normally, I don`t talk so much about it, but it`s written a lot about in the Netherlands. Everyone knows that I had a rough time. I didn`t grow up with parents. I didn`t have family, so I always lived in foster homes, I also spent time on the streets. I slept on the streets. I had a really tough time. Well you share that situation with a lot of South African players.

You`re now in your second season in the PSL, what are your impressions of South African football? What I like about South African football is the working spirit among the players. It`s always there and I really like that. Obviously I`m not going to compare the football here and that of other countries where I`ve played my football, because every country has its own style of soccer. You have got many players in South Africa with big talent, like the goalkeeper from Kaizer Chiefs who`s playing for Bafana Bafana, Itumeleng Khune. I like SuperSport United winger Sameegh Doutie. He`s a small player and has good technique. I`m a fan of his. The only thing that there is not much co-operation between the clubs here and those from overseas. I think it also starts with the development. The teams here don`t invest so much money in development, I think that`s a pity and where they fail a bit. But the quality is there and you can see the South African players have quality, but in certain areas you can see they are missing something. For example, in the Netherlands, the leader boys and the youth get so much attention, like crazy. I think it would be a good idea if most of the South African coaches go to Europe, take a look at how they build up certain players. It could help South African football.

How was your working relationship with Ernst Midderndorp, who as you mentioned brought you to the country?
Ja, you know, how can I put it. I had a good time with Midderndorp. I think he brought the team to a good level and did some good things for Maritzburg United. I enjoyed working with him. He is a good coach. I can`t say more. It came as a bit of a shock when he resigned. In football these things happen. coaches resign and coaches get fired.

Thank you, it`s been great chatting to you and we wish you everything of the best. 
Thank you.