Sick son brought Chery to NEC, now cup final beckons: ‘His crazy weeks’ | Football

Tjaronn Chery is a superstar in Israel, but temporarily returned to the Netherlands this winter due to his sick son. On Tuesday evening he will compete with NEC against Cambuur for a place in the cup final. “These are weeks of extremes.”

Chery pauses for a moment, as if realization dawns on him at that moment. “It is actually special, reaching the cup final after a month at your new club. Not many players will have succeeded in that. Well, these are also weeks of extremes,” says Chery in conversation with, a day before the match in the semi-finals of the cup against Cambuur.

By “weeks of extremes”, the 35-year-old from The Hague refers on the one hand to his good performances in his first weeks at NEC. On the other hand, Chery points out the reason why he moved to Nijmegen on loan from Maccabi Haifa last month in the first place. It had nothing to do with the war in Israel, but with his son’s health problems.

“He started having complaints at the end of last year, when we were in the Netherlands with the family. My son had to undergo all kinds of tests and stay in the Netherlands. Flying was not allowed, so we were not allowed to take him to Israel. My son then stayed behind with my wife. and my other two children.”

For months, Chery only saw his wife and children via FaceTime. “I thought I should be there as a father for my son. And for my wife, who was getting a bit stressed. I am the man and father they lean on. But I wasn’t there.”

“That is why it was important to come back to the Netherlands temporarily. I can play football freely again, now that I have my son around me again. He is doing well, although we do not yet know what is wrong with him. .”

Tjaronn Chery in the shirt of Maccabi Haifa, which rents him out to NEC in the second half of the season. Photo: Getty Images

Goal against PSG by Messi and Mbappé

His club Maccabi Haifa was not keen on a temporary departure for Chery, who played for Queens Park Rangers and Kayserispor, among others, after leaving FC Groningen in 2015. “They wanted to go for the national title with me. I was just an important player there,” Chery explains.

With ‘De Groenen’ he has won three national titles, two Israeli super cups since 2019 and scored in the Champions League against Benfica and Paris Saint-Germain, where Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappé played. In addition, Chery has been captain of the club in recent seasons.

He grew into a great gentleman in Israel. “Yes, they see me as a bit of a superstar,” Chery laughs. “I’m not a braggart, but in Israel I can no longer walk normally on the streets. A large mural was made of my head in Haifa, just like a number of other teammates. But I was the first.”

Chery is still in the group app of the Maccabi Haifa players. He recently went to watch his former teammates, who were playing against KAA Gent. In principle, Chery will return to Maccabi Haifa after half the season in Nijmegen, where he still has a contract until mid-2025.

“They miss me and I miss them. The players of Maccabi Haifa are my boys. My head is in Nijmegen, but also there in Israel.”

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Chery controls NEC’s game

On the field, the midfielder seems purely concerned with NEC. In the first weeks after his return to the Dutch fields, Chery – just like in his time at FC Groningen and ADO, among others – is an attraction in the Eredivisie as ‘classic number ten’.

He immediately conquered a starting place and has already scored three times in his first six official matches for NEC. As a playmaker, he also controls the game of the Nijmegen team with his velvet kick and eye for a through ball.

At NEC no one talks anymore about trendsetter Magnus Mattsson, who left for FC Copenhagen last winter for a record amount.

“But I don’t consciously bend the team to my will. I’m just someone who often shoots and gives through passes. Then you automatically take control of the game,” says Chery, who does not know whether he is too good for NEC.

“But I had to laugh after my goal against Go Ahead Eagles (2-2), on my debut. Afterwards people came up to me and said: ‘How is it possible that you are still so fit?’ Well, I’ve always been fit, you just haven’t seen me for nine years.”

Photo: ANP

Cup final with a deeper meaning

Chery is determined to reach European football with NEC in the play-offs and to reach the cup final on Tuesday evening at the expense of Cambuur. NEC last reached the cup final in the 1999/2000 season, when they lost 2-0 to Roda JC.

Chery has already won the ‘pine cone’ once – in 2015 with FC Groningen – and so knows what it is like to play the final in De Kuip. “A final like that is beautiful. Those buses that drive to the stadium, half of the stadium is yours. I want to experience that again.”

The midfielder hopes to help NEC to the final battle at the expense of Cambuur on Tuesday evening. “My son, family and mother give me strength. I also know that I did not come to the Netherlands for a good reason. Making it to the final would therefore be extra special after these crazy weeks.”

The semi-final in the TOTO KNVB Cup between Cambuur and NEC starts on Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. The winner qualifies for the cup final in De Kuip. Feyenoord or FC Groningen will be the opponent on April 21.

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2024-02-27 05:29:00
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