- Kika van Es is a key player for the Netherlands
- As a young player, she pretended to be a boy and adopted a false name
- The defender is on the look-out for a new club – and a world title
By Emma Coolen with the Netherlands
For most players at this FIFA Women’s World Cup™, reaching this exalted level required some level of sacrifice. But few will have needed to go to the lengths of adopting a new name simply to play the game they love.
That was the remarkable situation forced upon Netherlands star Kika van Es as a child, as she explained to FIFA. “When I was five years old, I started playing on a boys’ team,” she said. “In those days, people considered football a sport only for boys.
“To fit in, I pretended to be a boy when I was playing football. During the week, people called me Kika. But on Saturdays, during our matches, I had everyone call me ‘Randy’.”
Just two years after she started playing football at that local club, Olympia ’18, Van Es caught the eye of youth scouts from two professional men’s clubs: PSV, the team Van Es supported, and NEC Nijmegen. However, dreams of playing in a professional environment were cut short for the seven-year-old.
When the scouts found out that ‘Randy’, the talented youngster who had caught their attention, was in fact a girl, she was told she couldn’t play for either club. For the defender, who is now 27, such memories make her subsequent rise all the sweeter.
That rise began quickly after the disappointment she suffered as a seven-year-old. Just three years later, Van Es was called up for a regional youth team at the Dutch federation KNVB and, this time, it was all girls. “That was the moment I realised that there were other girls out there who had dreams of becoming a professional football player someday,” she recalled.
Another nine years later she made her debut for the senior women’s national team and has gone on to great success. She won the UEFA Women’s EUROs with the Oranjeleeuwinnen in 2017, playing every minute of every game until being subbed off in stoppage time in the final in extra time, and has played for arguably the biggest three clubs in Dutch women’s football: PSV, Twente and, most recently, Ajax. She announced ahead of this tournament that she will be leaving the Amsterdam giant and is hoping a strong World Cup campaign will attract interest from major clubs.
But would she have rather gone through life as a boy? “For the pay cheque, maybe!” she responded, laughing. Van Es never shies away from such statements. Asked if she would be willing to give up a leg in order to win the World Cup, she doesn’t hesitate. “Of course! But if I got to pick, I’d give up my weaker right… Or maybe an arm. An arm would be fine.”
What the rest of the World Cup will bring for Van Es and her Orange Lionesses? Only time will tell. But with the football fairy tale of Kika’s career still being written, the most exciting chapter might still be ahead.