AZ talent fulfilling potential
Under the tall trees of AZ’s brand new AFAS Trainingscomplex in Zaanstad, dozens of budding, young AZ players work hard every day to cement their futures at the club. Over the last few years, AZ’s academy has been instrumental in smoothing the path to success for its youngsters and has earned an excellent reputation as an accessible and professional training institute, twice being awarded best youth academy in The Netherlands.
AZ’s youth train twice a day, receive specific individual coaching and supervision during training sessions and attend a study programme where every player regardless of ability can obtain a diploma. The club also offers a transport scheme for youngsters so access to the centre is not a problem. The AFAS Trainingscomplex offers alot more and this is what AZ’s scholars can expect at a professional youth academy.
The site on the Zuiderweg in Wijdewormer, municipality Zaanstad, was officially opened by former coach Louis van Gaal in June 2016 and is currently being managed by Paul Brandenburg and his staff who work under the guidance of Director of Football, Max Huiberts. The coaches and staff at the academy buy into the club’s culture - some of which have played in the red and white shirt - so they understand the importance of promoting and developing AZ’s proud style of football.
It’s no surprise that the academy has already borne fruit having nurtured Kolbeinn Sigthórsson (AZ first team, now FC Nantes), Jeremain Lens (AZ first team, now Fenerbahce) and Adam Maher (AZ first team, now Osmanlispor) to play at the highest level. Currently almost half of the first squad grew from the own youth academy, including players like Ridgeciano Haps, Derrick Luckassen, Joris van Overeem and Dabney dos Santos.
One of the academy’s biggest success stories is undoubtedly that of Ron Vlaar. The centre-back developed rapidly at the centre and soon earned his starting place in the AZ team. He went on to make his under-21 debut for the Netherlands, joined Feyenoord and Aston Villa and returned home to Alkmaar with several caps for the Dutch national team under his belt.