Local Football Star: Joël Tillema

Team African Drops is lucky to have all kinds of amazing people in their close circle. Crazy creative people, people that are bright and athletes. Our range of options in introductions is big. This time we chose to go for an athlete again. 

We went for someone that professionally plays one of the world's, if not thee, most popular sports. In this Journey post, we're introducing you all to Joël Tillema, football player at AFC, Amsterdamsche Football Club. An attacking midfielder that's dangerous on the ball. Not afraid to bang goals in or serve them on a platter to his teammates with his assists. When you see Joël coming at your goal, it's a problem. The man is talented and good at what he does, that can't be denied. And as big fans of him ourselves, we decided to introduce you all to him. 

We asked him a few questions about his experience as a football player. We hope you get a better understanding of who Joël is as a person and a football player. 


How long have you been playing football?

I started young, I've been playing football since I was 5.

From which moment did you know that football was your thing and you could go on far with it?

I played for my amateur club at the time, RVC Rijswijk. When I was 13, I got moved up to the age group above me. I got scouted by Ajax that season.

How was it to play for Ajax? Was it for you, like many others, a dream come true?

To be honest, I was a Feyenoord fan from when I was small hahah. But at that time the Ajax Youth Academy was already known as one of the best in Europe. I could've gone to Feyenoord, but they came later and my choice was already made by then. I had a great time at Ajax, around 12pm a van would come pick me up from school and by 10pm I'd be home. We would eat and do homework at the academy in between training. Everything was organised in a great manner. I also had the opportunity of playing in a lot of international tournaments with Ajax, all around the world. 

As a young boy coming up in the world of football, did you have any players that were a roll model to you? Players that you would try and imitate in your game?

Of course! As a kid I would always be the Brazilian Ronaldo when playing football with friends. I would play like him and sometimes people would call me Ronaldo because I looked like him as well. I had a gap in my front teeth like him at the time hahah. I remember at one world cup, he had this bald hairstyle with only a bit of hair in the front. I ended up getting the same haircut hahahah.

The infamous haircut


Did you also have black roll models in football?

Yes definitely, the big guys; Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert. You would see them as a little boy, playing for the Dutch National Team and those were the football players that you could identify yourself with. 

And how was it to sign for ADO The Hague as someone who comes from the city of The Hague?

That was a great thing. Everyone that comes from The Hague is also a ADO fan, even if it's just a little bit. And growing up in The Hague made it an even an even nicer thing for me.

You've played on many positions on the field, which one is your favourite?

I've actually played on every position on the field except for goalkeeper. But my favourite position would have to be the one has to be one that has been my fixed position in the team over the past years. Behind the striker as an attacking midfielder.

Does that put pressure on you? Playing as a #10 is an important role.

The number 10 position is an important role indeed, it's expected of me to score goals but also assist in goals. But I never really feel any kind of pressure because of it, I just get the regular match tension. 

What is the hardest thing about your life as a footballer?

 I play in the second division now. This means that we train in the evening. And I work during the day, so sometimes after work, I'll be home for an hour and then head to training again. I'll get back home around 10.30pm. This can sometimes be draining and physically tiring. 

Looking back over the years, what's the biggest lesson you've learnt? 

Your mind-set has to be 100% on go when you want to do something, if you don't you often won't succeed. When I was younger I had a totally different mind-set. Of course it had to do with the age but now I'm a lot more focused on my body, something I should've done when I was younger too.

What advice do you have for the youth with ambitions to become football players?

 On number 1 is, always have fun in the game. You'll have to drop a lot of things for it and work hard. Nowadays the youth has social media, where they can follow their roll models and see what they have to do in order to get there. In the aspects of regular training, strength training and nutrition. 

To you, what is the best football team to ever play the game? This can be past or present.

For me it has to be the Brazilian squad of the world cup in 98. They didn't win the world cup, but they had ridiculous players. Players like Ronaldo and Rivaldo really amazed me and stuck in my memory.

In a 4-3-3 formation, with you playing as a #10, which two players would you want next to you to really get the best out of you?

If I would have to choose from players that are active now. I would go for Frenkie de Jong, as a connecting player. And Kevin de Bruyne that can send me and find me in open spaces with his passing. 

If you could transfer to wherever at this moment, where would that be and why?

At the moment I'm 31, so I'd like to play somewhere sunny and nice. And maybe quite adventurous as well, somewhere like Bali, Indonesia.

Do you have a pre-game ritual?

Uhhmm, yeah I do actually. I always put on my left sock first and then my left shoe immediately right after. And then my right sock and right shoe afterwards.

We know that you've had crazy things happen during a game for example the streaker, but would you say that that was the craziest thing happen to you?

The streaker definitely hahah! I haven't seen that often, a naked woman running on the field. She tried to run into my arms too, I would definitely say that was the craziest thing.

Aside from football, do you have any other ambitions?

Yesss, together with a friend I started a project. But I can't speak about it much. You'll all see soon enough. Aside from that, I want to be a good father and take care of my family.

If you would have to choose, no more football or no more music, which would it be?

Pfff woow, that's a difficult one. It would have to be no more music man.

And finally, what's your favourite tune at the moment?

Lil Baby - On Me. Everything that man releases is fire.

That concludes the interview we had with Joël. We'd like to thank him once again for thanking his time to do this for us. We enjoyed it and really enjoyed the answers he gave us. And we hope you readers did too. If you'd like to follow Joël on IG you can at @joel__t 

He's not very active on it and doesn't have any pictures on it at the moment. But surely we'll see things popping up relating his future plans on there. 

Once again we thank you for reading, and hope to see you again for the next Journey post.

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1 comment

  • Salut

    • Dominique