By the Numbers: 4

Soccer lists are ubiquitous and come in all shapes and sizes, types and varieties. We at O87 never settle for just doing another list. “Just another list” isn’t even in our vocabulary. So, when one of us decided that it would behoove our blog to have it’s own take on the “Best Of” phenomenon of modern sports, we decided that we couldn’t just list the best players in order of their relative merits, by their decades or eras, or even by their positions. We would try something marginally novel (we won’t be so bold as to claim to be the first to come up with this idea): let’s rank players by the number they wore, not by their position. Now obviously, this throws in some wrinkles. Players who might not normally be compared to each other will needs be. For example, Makelele, Hargreaves, Koeman, Zanetti, and Fabregas have all iconically worn number 4. Who to choose? It doesn’t matter! We’re trying to approach this question from a different perspective. We hope you enjoy it.

Ronald Koeman: A Life in Perspective

No doubt one of the greatest players to ever wear the number 4 was the legendary Ronald Koeman. He is perhaps the only player in history to be completely forgiven for defensive lapses thanks to a disgustingly prolific number of goals. His career will always be exemplified by his extra time freekick that won Barcelona the 1992 European Cup – their first. But we have to wonder, where would the Barca Bomber be if not for his footballing career? What if he twisted his ankle as a tyke and gave up on the sport? Or the Ajax scout called in sick? What if Ronald Koeman were just your average Joe? We take a crack at these questions with our own best guesses in this photo journal. Pulitzer Committee, we’re still waiting on our phone call!

Ronald Koeman is born on March 21, 1963 near the town of Zaandam in the Netherlands. As an infant, he is wrapped in blankets, placed in a basket, and put on a train with a note taped to his breast – “Whatever happens, don’t let this child play football.” He’ll never see his parents again.

At the age of 18, Ronald leaves the Netherlands forever and travels to England. He buses tables with a lad named David at a London diner. When the two are introduced, David cannot understand Ronald’s thick Dutch accent and mistakenly believes his name is “Ziggy Stardust.” Suddenly inspired, David records his first album and leaves the restaurant business for good. Some years later, Ronald fills in for Bowie as a body double at one of his stadium concerts.

The concert is a disaster – Koeman can’t carry a tune. Bowie asks, “Can’t you sing?!” but this time it’s Ronald’s turn to mishear his friend. Concerned that his swing isn’t good enough, he takes up golfing, going pro after only a few years. Not to be outdone by Jack Nicklaus, Koeman assumes the nickname “The Orange Bear” and places in the Top 10 exactly 0 times.

After ten unsuccessful years, Koeman decides to hang up his…clubs…but doesn’t want to leave the game for good. He caddies celebrity tournaments, living off tips and a meager wage. At the American Century, Bob Hope notices his skills. “You’ve got what it takes to tote, kid. Have you thought about valeting?”

Koeman gives it a shot and finally feels like he’s found his place in the world. He would later say, “I get to drive cars a few hundred meters into a garage, run back to my station, and hand patrons a claim ticket. What more could a man want out of life?” Minister fur Grappig Stropdassen (Minister of Funny Ties) Hans van der Smoot commends the young blue-collar lad for his tenacity in working without a flag-themed bowtie – professional suicide at the time. van der Smoot offers Koeman a large sum of money to pursue any business venture he chooses.

Thanking the minister for his generous gift, Ronald thinks long and hard about his investment. “I never want anyone to experience my childhood,” he tells himself, and establishes a foundation to prevent infants from being left in public transit. Koeman sponsors the first (and last) annual March on Children. The foundation collapses after only a few weeks when no one utilizes its services.

Disheartened, Koeman spirals into a deep depression. Looking back on his life, he wonders if anyone will remember his name when he’s gone. Suddenly, with a flash of inspiration, he knows exactly what to do. Ronald phones up van der Smoot and begs for more money. The minister, who has a surprisingly large budget, agrees immediately, remembering fondly the night they met and talked about bowties. With a sum of cash and a dream, Ronald Koeman finally figures it out. And he’s never been happier.

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