Simon Tahamata

Football's Pioneers: Simon Tahamata

Dr. Mark Orton, from De Montfort University’s International Centre for Sports History & Culture, profiles Simon Tahamata, a Netherlands international who won league titles with Ajax and Standard Liège and a footballing trailblazer for the Malaku community.
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Born in Vught in the Netherlands on 26 May, 1956 in a refugee camp for independence-seeking Moluccans fleeing repression in the former Dutch colony of Indonesia, Simon Tahamata was the breakthrough footballing star of the Moluccan diaspora in Holland, blazing a trail for the later emergence of talent from the Maluku community such as Giovanni van Bronkhorst, John Heitinga and Denny Landzaat.

After being spotted by Ajax playing for his local side in Tiel, Tahamata made his debut for the Amsterdam club in December 1976. He went on to win three Dutch League titles and was part of the Ajax team that lost to Nottingham Forest in the 1979 European Cup Semi-Final.

The left-winger’s fine form earned him the first of 22 international caps for the Netherlands in 1979 against Argentina. He had earlier missed out on selection for the 1978 World Cup after being included in Ernst Happel’s 25-man provisional squad for the tournament.

In 1980, Tahamata was surprisingly sold to Belgian club Standard Liège. He enjoyed a fine four-year spell in Wallonia, winning two Belgian league titles and helping the club to its only European showpiece in 1982 when they lost in the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final to Barcelona. A crowd favourite among the Standard faithful, he scored 40 goals in 129 games for Liège in one of the most successful periods in the club’s history.

After three years at Feyenoord, between 1984 and 1987, Tahamata spent the remaining decade of his playing career in Belgium with Beerschot and Germinal Ekeren, where he was named the 1990/91 Belgian League Player of the Season, before turning his hand to coaching.

Despite being a Dutch international, Tahamata took Belgian nationality in 1990. Referring to the 1977 hijacking of a train and school in Assen, in which 60 hostages were taken by Moluccan activists protesting the poor treatment of their community in the Netherlands, the player later reflected on his conflicted relationship with Dutch society. He said: “I have a Dutch passport, then I adopted Belgian nationality. But these are just papers. I am Moluccan in case you didn’t see yet. I didn’t live in the worst camp, but I could have been one of the hijackers.”

Currently. he is a youth coach with Ajax as well as operating his own Simon Tahamata Soccer Academy with the aim of helping talented youngsters from difficult backgrounds like his own.

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