Nick Frese — Quitting football to be a boxer
He was once an ambitious lad who dreamt of representing Holland at the international level.
He played against Memphis Depay and won many medals around Europe. He was even close to signing a contract with Glasgow Rangers.
But today, he is a boxer determined to win the world championship and to represent Thailand at the Olympics.
Your life is yours to make what you will of it, and this was how Nick Frese chose to live his.
Things begun at… Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands, a major historical center of Europe and home to one of the most iconic and successful football teams in the world, Ajax Amsterdam.
It was there Frese’s love for Ajax and football was also cultivated, thanks mainly in part to his Dutch father.
“My first football shirt was Ajax’s green away shirt. I was only one year-old then”, Frese reflected.
“My father is a true fan. He traveled to watch the team play across Europe.
“And of course he was at the UEFA Champions League 1994/1995 final in Italy when Ajax defeated AC Milan 1-0. He encouraged me to play football since I was five. But I was too small. I started playing again at seven and that was when I got to play for a feeder club called AFC.”
Frese’s dream then was to don Ajax's stripes, especially after he was invited to train and play for their under-9 youth team.
The under-9 side was called F1 at Ajax, Frese told FourFourTwo, and was the youngest team around. They trained at a venue named De Toekomst, loosely translated to ‘Future’, which was close to the senior team’s training field.
There, Frese recalled seeing the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Steven Pienaar, Andy van der Meyde and Julien Escudé, further fuelling his motivation to be successful. It helped that Frese received free tickets to watch Ajax in action too.
It inspired me to really want to be a professional player. To see the players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wesley Sneijder play was definitely inspirational
“Because I was a youth player for the club, I got a year-long ticket to see the home games every week,” he said.
“It inspired me to really want to be a professional player. To see players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wesley Sneijder play was definitely inspirational.”
Initially, things went well in his first year, Frese claimed. The former Ajax trainee said he was a regular starter for F1 and that they reached four youth tournament finals.
He even played against current Lyon forward Memphis Depay on various occasions and believed he held his own against the latter.
“I played against Memphis Depay when he played for Sparta Rotterdam before he moved to PSV Eindhoven at the age of 12,” Frese recalled fondly.
“We played against each other often because he played at left wing and I was a right-back. I even once fouled him and got sent off.”
But things soon changed in his second year, when Frese moved up to E2 and fell out of favour with the new coach, Edwin Kortlevers.
“The coach (Edwin Kortlevers) didn’t let me play much. He replaced me with players who usually played other positions. Some of them, their fathers worked for Ajax. Maybe that was how they got in
“The coach (Edwin Kortlevers) didn’t let me play much. He replaced me with players who usually played other positions. Some of them, their fathers worked for Ajax. Maybe that was how they got in,” Frese suggested with a laugh.
“I don’t know why the coach didn’t like me. He just said I didn’t listen to him. But Edwin was there for one year. The team didn’t do well and that got him fired.”
Glory in Europe
Luckily for Frese, Kortlevers' departure resulted in him quickly returning to being a regular for the Ajax youth sides.
These took him to places he had never been to before and he spoke fondly of a tournament which was held at the famed San Siro Stadium, home to both Italy giants Inter Milan and AC Milan.
“My teammates and I were excited just to see the names of the teams we’d play: Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan. There were also Verona, Chievo and 1860 Munich,” Frese said.
“In that tournament we played against some local team and we thrashed them 13-0. But the final game was the most memorable for me. Their players looked 16 and we were only 12. It’s impossible that they were 12. I don’t think so.
“In the last game, we put up a good fight. We were 2-2 at the end of normal time, but in the extra time, I provided the ball from the right and my teammate scored to give us the lead.
“In the end we won 4-2 and to win the tournament. It was one of the most memorable games for me.”