No 29 (in a series of several): Abe Lenstra (1920-1985)
This statue of the legendary Dutch footballer Abe Lenstra – made in 1994 by Dutch sculptor Frans Ram – stands just to the right of the main entrance to the Abe Lenstra Stadium in the Friesland town of Heerenveen.
Junior and I spent a day and bit in Heerenveen back in 2007, for the Under 21 Championship game between Israel and Belgium, but a group of inconveniently placed hospitality tents, for UEFA dignitaries no doubt, and a number of muscular gentlemen in dark suits and sunglasses prevented us from getting anywhere close to the statue.
Born in Heerenveen in 1920, coincidentally the same year that SC Heerenveen (then VV Heerenveen) were formed, Lenstra made his debut for the club at fifteen. With Lenstra firing in the goals the club enjoyed an unprecedented run of success that saw them win the Northern Netherlands title nine times in a row between 1942 and 1950.
VV Heerenveen were an amateur side and while both they and Lenstra did their level best to avoid the inevitable money eventually led to his turning professional with Enschedese Boys. There he scored 89 times in 135 matches and after spells with a number of other clubs finished his career on 523 goals. One of his most famous club matches was against Ajax in 1950 when he inspired his team to overcome a 5-1 deficit and win 6-5.
Lenstra also hit the back of the net 33 times in 47 international appearances over some twenty years. WWII limited the number of caps he would no doubt have won otherwise as did his battle with the Dutch Internal Selection Committee who he would refuse to play for unless he was named in his favoured position of inside-left.
[Footnote: Frans Ram, incidentally, has created an interesting and varied range of public art installations across the Netherlands including the Dike Alert Monument at Ballumerbocht Ballum on the north Dutch coast.]