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Arjan de Zeeuw is a name still fondly remembered amongst Portsmouth fans during their golden years in the Premier League. But ask the former defender about his main passion in life now and football is likely to play second fiddle after taking the unconventional route into law enforcement following his retirement.
He began his career in England with Barnsley and Wigan before joining the South Coast club in 2002 while Harry Redknapp was in charge. The tough-tackling centre-back proved to be an indomitable presence for his club when they were promoted to the top flight, tasked with stopping prolific strikers like Ruud van Nistelrooy and Thierry Henry.
He left Fratton Park in 2005 for a second stint with Wigan before moving to Coventry and finally ADO’20 for the 2008-09 campaign. When he decided to hang up his boots at the age of 37, De Zeeuw felt that the usual route of becoming a football coach or manager after finishing his playing days wasn’t appealing.
And despite already having a medical degree at hand, he turned his back on his plans to become a doctor and chased his dream to work his way up the ranks in the Dutch police force – and De Zeew is loving every second in his unusual post-playing role.
“I still work with the Dutch police force, believe it not as an inspector, or detective as you call it,” he told his former team-mate Emerson Boyce’s podcast. “I realised that I loved playing football so much that I didn’t not want to play it and be on the side of the pitch all the time.
“I realised I didn’t want to be on the football pitch not playing football, so I thought no, I’m not going to do all the badges and go into management, I’m just going to get completely out of football altogether.
“Having a medical degree, my first idea was to become a doctor, but at the time the Dutch police were looking for people with higher education to do a fast-track course into the police force. It sounded a little bit like a boys’ dream – being in fast cars and having a gun and all that stuff and I realised it was still going to take me a long time to become a doctor, whereas it was a much quicker route into the police force.”
De Zeeuw, who turns 53 next month, believes his job change has allowed him to see a different side of life after spending 17 years as a professional footballer.
“I thought ‘hang on’, I’ll just try it, just like I did with coming across to England [to play football]. I thought I’ll just try it and see how it goes and I have to say, I really enjoy it,” he added.
“Being a footballer, obviously you have the good lifestyle and are a bit of a figure in the community because you play for the local team and all that. Being a policeman, you see the other side of society. It’s interesting, I’ll tell you that – and I do have a fast car and I do have a gun.”
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