Netherlands coach Van Gaal hugs Senegalese reporter at World Cup

Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal was taken by surprise at a World Cup news conference Thursday when a Senegalese reporter told the Dutchman he was a longtime admirer.

AP , Thursday 24 Nov 2022,
Head coach Louis van Gaal of the Netherlands smiles prior to the World Cup, group A soccer match bet
Head coach Louis van Gaal of the Netherlands smiles prior to the World Cup, group A soccer match between Senegal and Netherlands at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. AP

``I don't have any question for you. It's just an opportunity to tell you I'm a fan since 3 years old,'' Papa Mahmoud Gueye said. ``I love you.''

The 71-year-old Van Gaal, sometimes viewed as a stern-faced, taciturn and obdurate figure in soccer, broke into a huge smile before responding.

``I'm going to give you a big hug after this, because I like that you say this and I mean that seriously,'' Van Gaal said through an interpreter. ``Because people don't often say this to me. So we'll give each other a big hug afterward.''

Van Gaal kept his word, moving down from the stage and beckoning the reporter with his hand to join him in a warm embrace.

The 28-year-old Gueye works for Senegalese publication

Gueye told The Associated Press it was an honor to share such a touching moment with Van Gaal, a storied and highly innovative coach who has led teams like Ajax, Barcelona and Manchester United.

``He's one of the greatest figures in football,`` Gueye said. ``He was also happy to see that there are people who love him, and he said to me `Let's give each other a hug.'''

Gueye said Van Gaal has earned an unfair reputation over the years as being grumpy.

``That's not really the case. From a distance people generally think that's he's not cool,`` Gueye said. ``But he's a smiley character and he laughs with everyone. And he's one of the best coaches in the world.''

The Netherlands beat Senegal 2-0 on Monday.


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