A family affair: Danny and Daley Blind write history together at Qatar 2022

Daley Blind

His father, Danny, was one of the best defenders that the Netherlands produced, who played in his career for only two sides – Sparta Rotterdam and Ajax Amsterdam – being the player with the third largest number of appearances for the latter team, featuring 493 times for Ajax in his career.

It was just apt that his son, Daley, was also going to be a football player. And with his father’s legacy, the boy born exactly in Amsterdam, started his career at the world-renowned academy of De Toekomst, Ajax’s conveyor belt of talents, where he made his debut in 2008, when he was only 18 years old.

“I am very proud of the career my father had. I think what we done for the Blind name is truly fantastic. My first memory of football is being in the stands at the Amsterdam Arena, seeing Ajax, when I was six years old. I saw my father playing many times, but I do not remember many of them, since I was just a kid,” says Daley.

The pressure was definitely on Daley as a small kid, as his father was a former captain of Ajax and a true legend of the club, but he inherited some leadership skills and immediately became the leader of the side, either as a left back, right back, central back or even as a pivot in the three-man Ajax midfield.

But he did not have it easy, especially due to his special name and the link between him and the former Ajax stalwart, who helped the side win the UEFA Champions League in 1995.

“When I first started in the first team everything went well, then I had a period when it was a bit more difficult. I went out on loan, came back stronger, and that was when I had a really hard time, fighting my way back into the team. But Ronald de Boer showed a lot of faith in me, and I grew a little as a person and a player. I tried to do my best in every game and training session and this is where I am now,” said Blind in an interview for “The Guardian”.

Another Dutchman, the manager of the Netherlands at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Louis van Gaal, always liked Blind and saw him as a perfect fit for his project at Manchester United. As the “Red Devils” forked out $20 million for Ajax’s defender in 2014, Blind was starting a new adventure.

It was a mixed bag, with one UEFA Europa League trophy, one FA Cup and one EFL Cup, but Blind came back to Ajax, where he was named the Player of the Year in the 2012-13 season, in 2018. He was welcomed with open arms and even made a bit of history himself, helping his side reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in the 2018/19 season.

Unfortunately for Daley, he could not help Ajax qualify in the final, walking in his father’s footsteps, but played 333 times for the club, being one of the top 15 players in terms of appearances for the Amsterdam club.

Yet his career could have been over, after being subject to a heart problem in 2019. He suffered from dizziness in a game against Valencia in 2019 and was subsequently fitted with a subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which sends electrical pulses to regulate abnormal heart rhythms – specifically those that can be dangerous and cause a cardiac arrest.

In August 2020, the ICD malfunctioned and Blind collapsed on the pitch during a friendly game. But he was deemed fine to continue playing football. And Blind did just that, becoming a mainstay in van Gaal’s Dutch national team, when the coach took over for a third stint in August 2021.

It was just apt that Danny, Daley’s father, was van Gaal’s assistant and he and his son went together at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, where Daley even scored a goal in the match against the United States of America.

“I would have never expected to play for the national team of the Netherlands and achieve what my father achieved in his career or at least close to it. I played more games for the national team than my dad and I think that is something that I can be proud of. I mean, we can both be proud of,” said Daley Blind in an interview for FIFA.

Indeed, the younger Blind needs only one more game to become the ninth player in history to reach 100 caps for the Dutch team. His father only got 42. But that does not matter. While the Netherlands might be out of contention after that quarter-finals loss, the Blind family surely wrote some history for the country. And that, in itself, is special.

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