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The Sentinel

Vol. 2 , Issue 10, 2 June 2009

Integrity, heart, humour

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9½ weeks

9 1/2

The need for Nederlands

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Sport Winners and Losers

The Gold Room

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ces n e i r e ial exp at will t i n i r e ugh h tale th o a r – h t s terdam ides u s u m g , A s Picken d settling in e r a l rival, C London an r a t n Rece from g n i t o of us. o r y p n a u f m o iliar to m a f be

The Sentinel


Feature 9 1/2 weeks by Clare Pickens Here's an idea: give up a great, well-paid job and a three-bedroom house at an absolute rental steal, in central London, on a complete whim, and move to Amsterdam in the middle of the worst recession many of us have seen. Sounds ridiculous but that is exactly how I ended up here and, nine and a half weeks later, this is how far I have got in adapting to my new life as an Amsterdammer. Prior to my relocation, the first prudent move I thought to make was to register with any and every recruitment agency specialising in English-language placements. The bog standard response came back from all: ‘Dear Miss Pickens, thank you for your CV… Blah, blah, blah… When you have actually relocated, please get in touch and we'll see if we can help.’ Not a promising start. This was going to more difficult than I had anticipated, though I did see the point they were making. It would seem a vast number of potential expats have the same whimsical notion of finding the grass greener in the flat Dutch countryside, but not as many follow through with the madness of giving up everything they have. I am one of the crazy ones who did, but also one of the few and fortunate who have a number of good friends already based in Amsterdam. Consequently, I instantly had a centrally located place to live and within a week had my own bike – oversized, silver, thief-magnet bell and all.

Clare closely checks out her background

Uphill struggle

Arriving here on here a wing and prayer, I soon learned that the way most people do it is to actually be recruited from overseas and that the path laid out before me was at a very steep incline. Re-establishing contact with all those recruitment agencies, which had previously shown no real interest in me, was number one priority but again, to date, this has amounted to nothing. Next I was on to Dutch agencies as well. Broadening the horizons of my search, I felt confident of finding a fantastic opportunity; that elusive ideal job for which we are all searching. Though I did impress myself with how far my relatively basic German assisted in applying for jobs requiring Dutch language skills (I was scraping the barrel by now), I became mighty familiar with a number of online translation websites. So far, the tally stands at 13 interviews with seven different companies, none of which were the result of a single recruitment agency. I was fast learning that, in this relatively small expat community, it is all about that old cliché of who you know, rather than what you know. To skip straight to the result of two weeks of being chained to my laptop and fastidiously applying for jobs less and less suitable for my experience or vocational choices, I started the marketing job I currently have after three weeks of being in the city and, believe me, earning and spending euros is certainly a relief, compared to the pitiful pound I arrived with.

Bureaucracy reigns supreme Shadowed by totems

Well, of course it will be once my BSN (Burger Service Number, which recently replaced the sofinummer) arrives and I can actually open a bank account, rather than working for free as I appear to be at the moment. The BSN registration is another odd experience that I never needed to endure during any of my previous spontaneous relocations.

The Sentinel


Feature At the second appointment, having had my original birth certificate sent over from the UK, I was questioned heavily about the place of birth listed on my passport: Vunapope. Granted this is not a place I would imagine 99% of the population to have heard of. However, explaining to the gentleman allegedly giving me assistance that this small town is in Papua New Guinea and is also where my birth certificate was issued, I was more than astonished to see the young man leap from his chair, spend a number of minutes at another computer and return with a Google map printout to verify that I was not trying to mislead him. Please correct me if I am wrong, but were the New Guineas not once a part of the vast Dutch empire? Do they teach this stuff at Dutch schools or are they less concerned with their past empirical triumphs than we Brits? Nevertheless, I am registered, although I’ve been told that I must send my birth certificate to its place of issue in Papua New Guinea and ask the nice people there to send a letter verifying that it is, in fact, not a forgery, as I am sure was the insinuation of the aforementioned interviewer.

Culture shock

Settling in to life itself has been, on the whole, without hiccups. Learning that the Dutch don't queue; coffee is either great or crap but is available everywhere; plastic bags must be purchased in the supermarket and Albert Heijn does not accept credit cards; everyone jumps up on the dot of 13:00 for communal lunch and is out of the office by 17:31 (an entirely alien concept in my previous London city life); and that all your neighbours will happily peer – I would even go as far as to say stare – into your living room are all cultural nuances I am rapidly adapting to.

The joy of coming across seaside play things not seen since childhood

The bike is of course perilous and as a true Amsterdam initiation, I have misjudged a turn and ended up front wheel stuck in a tram track. Not a pretty sight. On the whole, despite job hunting, cultural adjustments, necessary paperwork and near-death cycling experiences, the first nine and a half weeks have certainly set the bar high.

The upside

Nights at Paradiso listening to live music, the fantastic introduction to the delights of bitterballen, a rather peculiar expat networking meeting, the wonder that is fresh air and a relaxed lifestyle, Bagels and Beans, and strolling the Jordaan on a sunny day have given the next nine and a half weeks something to live up to. Oh, and how could I close without mentioning Queen's Day? The concept is so simple: drinking warm beer from plastic cups and wandering aimlessly or as the crowd takes you – fantastic! Dancing for hours to street DJs, waving at passing boats, attempting to return home with as much orange paraphernalia as humanly possible and sitting through the wee small hours of the night on a leather sofa we stumbled across on the corner of the road are experiences which just cannot be beaten and long may they last, I say.


See you in another 91/2 weeks..

The Sentinel


Reader writes The need for Nederlands by Dave Moyle My naivety was further enhanced when I walked straight into an English-speaking job with opportunities to excel. But, one Credit Crunch-battered year later and I found myself the latest victim of a media-escalated, highly avoidable, nervous twitch, which started within the financial sector and now worries CEOs across many lands. That's right, I was considered 'expendable' in the eyes of my senior management, even though I was the top performer among my peers. Stupid pay rise!

If I think back now to when I first moved to Amsterdam, a little more than a year ago, I realise just how naïve I was. Like many others, I'd been over from England for the odd weekend on a number of occasions and quickly fell in love with the place. It's probably no surprise to learn that one of my main motivations for moving here was that 'everybody speaks perfect English!' Ja, natuurlijk, nog een biertje....

Panic mode?

I decided not to throw in the towel; not to profusely slap on Amsterdam's proverbial canvas, like an aging wrestler in an arm lock. Panic, my friends, is your biggest enemy in these circumstances. After all, the situation elsewhere – particularly in the UK – seems a lot worse, doesn't it? This is very easy to say if you speak Dutch, however. I soon found that everyone speaking my language fluently was of little use to me in the employment market, if I didn't speak theirs! It seems my stock reply of 'klein beetje' is clearly not a good enough answer to the ubiquitously asked question 'Do you speak Dutch?' So, where now with my career that had started so brightly? I have one complaint about the business community in the Netherlands, but it’s a big one. The whole of the business world speaks a single language: English. Why is it, then, that if I want to be in international business development and/or sales for a Dutch company, I have to speak Nederlands? To my knowledge, I will be reporting to someone who clearly speaks English, and my team (who may or may not be Dutch) will almost certainly speak English as well. I am not one to complain about another country’s culture, but why not speak English in the many international companies here, when most employees are required to do so in their day-to-day work?

A (fair) solution?

Is it fair that I am immediately ruled out for every position due to my rustic language skills? I do, after all, speak 'a little bit' of Dutch. I have quickly learnt that in order to survive in Holland in the long term, I will have to swiftly improve my 'little bit/klein beetje' to 'yes of course/ja natuurlijk'. I did some research and offers official Dutchlanguage courses in central Amsterdam, during evenings. It is well worth it in the long term and that 'horrible gargly inverted language' could soon become your best friend, if your situation ever mirrors mine. It's only my advice, of course, and do bear in mind that only 20 million people worldwide speak Dutch, 17 million of whom reside in the country itself. But enjoying living here as I do, and with prices as they are, my life will be a lot harder if I’m unable to find the type of job I’m used to. I must dash now; I've got an interview at a souvenir shop on Damrak!







Winners and losers by Gary Rudland It has been a thrilling season in the Premier League, Europe and, of course, the Fantasy Football League (FFL). Where there are winners there must also be losers and it’s time for all to get the recognition they deserve.

Andrew Rogers (Rill) finished runner-up in his debut FFL season.

The FFL’s first season under The Sentinel banner was both successful and enjoyable, and a big thank you should go to my fellow administrator, Gijs Smeets, for setting up the spreadsheet that made scoring so much easier than ever before. It would be nice to get a few more competitors next season, to boost the prize money and make the competition more interesting, so watch out for reminders from mid-July and please invite as many of your friends and colleagues as possible. Fantasy Football League This was the season in which Evertonian, Pete Stringfellow, and his Moyesy’s Blue Army made the transition from also-rans to champions. It may not have worked in previous campaigns, but respect should go to Pete for sticking to his self-imposed rule of not including any Liverpool players or Wayne Rooney in his team. Not only did he win the FFL this season, but he got engaged to Dionne, won another fantasy football competition, Everton reached the FA Cup final and Liverpool won nothing whatsoever. Some guys have all the luck!

Triumphant Kate arrives to collect her third-place winnings.

Perhaps most surprising, though, was the person who pushed Pete hardest for the 2008-2009 title: debutant Andrew Rogers (Rill) and his Tractors & Trailers team. Having picked his team on deadline evening with no prior thought and based predominantly on former Ipswich Town players, no-one (least of all me) expected him to mount a sustained challenge. As the months wore on, this is exactly what he did, however, and shrewd transfers enabled him to hold on to second spot when Pete eventually pulled away. Congratulations should also go to the other FFL prize winners – Kate Holdsworth (3rd), Matt Parker (4th) and Phil Smith (5th) – while honourable mentions should go to Dave Finbow and Nigel McIlkenny, who only just missed out on the prizes. Matt can afford plenty of Newcastle Brown with his fourth-place winnings.

FFL Cup The finals of the FA Cup and FFL Cup took place simultaneously last Saturday. The FFL Cup knockout competition usually produces some surprising results and this season’s was no exception. It was an almost all-Dutch, all-female final this year, as Marijke & Flick’s DC United took on FFL debutant, Karin Eekhuis (Keek) and her Deventer Speeskeek team. With one of Marijke’s three players (Phil Jagielka) injured, she was always going to struggle against Keek’s full complement of four players. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a very tight affair, but Deventer Speeskeek managed to maintain at least a one-point lead throughout, eventually winning the trophy by 7 points to 6. Congratulations and thanks to both Keek and Marijke for making the final a fun and memorable one. Champions League Whether Barcelona should have been in the final or not (and they shouldn’t have, in my opinion), they certainly gave Manchester United a lesson on the pitch in Rome last week. United had no reply to the excellent goals from Eto’o and Messi, and Barcelona were deserved winners on the night. Apart from the fact that an English team lost, this was pleasing for me, personally, since I predicted in February that Barcelona would beat Man Utd in the final.

Keek takes a victory drink from the FFL Cup, watched by runner-up, Marijke.








Premier League Despite being pressured by Liverpool nearly all the way, for the third season in succession, Manchester United ran out worthy winners, equalling Liverpool’s record of 18 championships. With a Community Shield, Carling Cup, World Club Championship and a Premier League title, this season’s biggest winner has to be Sir Alex Ferguson.

FA Cup My February prediction was for Aston Villa to beat Chelsea in the final. Everton may have proved me wrong by beating Aston Villa in February, but in a way they also proved me right, by progressing to the final and even beating the mighty Man Utd on the way. The club has enjoyed sustained success under David Moyes and will once again feature in the Europa League (formerly the UEFA Cup) next season.

His overall trophy tally must surely make him the greatest football manager of all time, a fact which only the most die-hard Liverpool supporter would dispute.

While Everton made the best start possible – Louis Saha scoring in a record-breaking 25 seconds from kick-off – Chelsea were level by half-time, through a Didier Drogba header.

While the players themselves voted with their hearts in recognition of Ryan Giggs’ incredible achievements throughout his career, the football writers got it right in voting Steven Gerrard this season’s outstanding player. In a record-breaking season for Liverpool, his talismanic performances eclipsed even the brilliance of Ronaldo and the consistency of Frank Lampard.

Finally, Mark Schwarzer must merit a mention for his outstanding season. Having moved to Fulham, who only just escaped relegation last season, at the beginning of this season, his superb performances helped Fulham to finish in seventh position, securing a place in the new Europa League.

Top five

(my predictions on 10 February in brackets)

1. Man Utd (Man Utd) 2. Liverpool (Chelsea) 3. Chelsea (Liverpool) 4. Arsenal (Arsenal) 5. Everton (Aston Villa)

That man Frank Lampard sealed Chelsea’s victory with a superb strike on 72 minutes, landing Guus Hiddink a major trophy during his short reign as manager The season’s biggest losers Aside from the obvious – West Bromwich Albion, Middlesbrough and Newcastle – one or two names stand out as having had less than impressive seasons, especially in terms of not delivering on expectations or potential. Having secured fourth place and probable Champions League football for yet another season, it may seem strange to include Arsenal among this season’s biggest losers, but in many ways that is what they are. It has been said at the beginning of the past few seasons, but shareholders have all but stated openly that Arsene Wenger’s team really must win some kind of trophy next season. It is make or break time for big names like Robin van Persie and, to a lesser extent, Cesc Fabregas, but (injuries permitting) they can count on supreme support in all competitions from the excellent Andrey Arshavin. On an individual level, this season’s biggest loser has to be David Bentley. Brought to Spurs for £15 million by Juande Ramos last summer, he looked a pale shadow of the player he was at Blackburn Rovers. Ramos’ replacement, Harry Redknapp, gave Bentley several chances to prove his worth but, apart from one sublime goal against Arsenal, he failed to take them. In Spurs’ last 10 games he only merited a shop-window appearance in the final match of the season. Redknapp seems resigned to shipping him off elsewhere and England supporters can only hope that his fortunes improve wherever he ends up. Other big names that failed to live up to their price tags this season include Robbie Keane and Emmanuel Adebayor. And after years as Cech’s number two at Chelsea, Carlo Cudicini moved to Spurs in January, only to find himself alongside Bentley on the bench. You have to feel for the guy. -

The Sentinel



Fantasy Football Gold 2008-2009

Fantasy Football Gold 2008-2009

Fantasy Football Gold 2008-2009

Fantasy Football Gold 2008-2009

By Denson Pierre After a gruelling 9.5-month season, Simon Owusu’s ‘Diaby Does Gallas’ team have become Fantasy Football Gold 2008-2009 champions. In the following interview, Simon explains how he achieved this momentous feat and what it means to him. It took a great deal of courage at the end of the previous season to state publicly that you would win this season’s competition. How does it feel now that you’ve pulled it off? It feels good, as it has validated what I said in the off-season and mostly all season; that I am ‘The Special One’, full of confidence and tactical knowledge. I had a good strategy to overhaul the large points deficit towards the end of last year’s competition and I was confident I could apply the same strategy this year, with a little bit of luck. You could say that I used the second half of last season’s competition as the launch to my eventual success this year. Second in the previous season, the only way to improve was to win. I also think I can do the same next season, but I won’t make it so publicly known this time. Who were your two most valuable players and why? That’s easy, Anelka at the beginning of the season and Ronaldo towards the end, as they both came into form at the right time when I needed an advantage. The other managers did not select Anelka for most of the season, so it gave me an opportunity to build a good lead.

Ronaldo looked to be having an off-season, but I took the risk in selecting him for the last ten games, or so, and it paid off in a big way. That little winker won the competition for me when. the going got tough. You cannot keep good talent down for long, speaking about myself of course, but I guess the same can be said about Ronaldo.

What next for Cristiano Ronaldo?

As the game matured, the forecasts became more accurate and your massive lead disappeared. Did you at any time feel fear or challenged? Nope, by hook or by crook I knew I would win this competition. I built up a huge lead to give me some breathing space and thinking room, as I knew there would be an eventual dip in form and injuries that I had to factor in. It was always my competition to lose and not anyone else’s to win. This was already obvious by mid-season, when the competition in my eyes was mathematically over. This year the two top FFG managers are supporters of lower division clubs, while Manchester United and Chelsea won it for you. Do you think it is easier for fantasy football managers to objectively pick more effective teams if their real-world clubs are not involved in the Premier League? I have no loyalties to any of the clubs in the Premier League, so I had an unbiased selection of players, albeit I chose Ashley Young (formerly of Watford FC). But I also knew he would prove his worth in my all-star team. I also made sure to choose players who would give me a huge points haul instead of players who just played good football. My selection was for the win.

Anelka (right), has had a season spent silencing critics.

Congratulations to Simon, who is currently enjoying his winnings on holiday in Portugal.

Colophon Editor - Denson Pierre, Gary Rudland Webmaster - Simon O. Studios / Web host - AmsterJammin Contributors - Gijs Smeets, Colin Bentley Clare Pickens, Dave Moyle Email - Design & Realisation - Andreea Bulisache Website -

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The Sentinel 27