Dutch Football History Lesson: Faas Wilkes

He has put our country on the International Football map

Henk Kesler, KNVB Director 2000 – 2010

Holland throughout it’s footballing history is blessed in having many special and talented players who have always made a difference to each club they have played for.  Faas Wilkes was a success on and off the field in each team and country he played in, and along with Gerrit Keizer, Beb Bakhuys and Gerrit Vreken were responsible for putting Holland on the map football-wise.  In order to achieve this Wilkes had to leave Holland due to the strict rules of the Dutch football association KNVB who did not allow professional players to play in Holland and were against any player moving abroad to play.

Between 1947 and 1964 as a striker, Faas Wilkes played for a variety of teams. In Holland, he played for Xerxes Rotterdam, VVV Venlo and Fortuna 54.  He played a total of 183 games and scored 79 goals.  His talent was obvious. Faas was very skilful, fast and comfortable with the ball.  He enjoyed beating several players at once and was clinical in front of goal.  Despite the five-year ban he received from the KNVB for deciding to move abroad, Wilkes ended up playing for Levante, Valencia, Torino and Inter Milan where his goalscoring exploits continued.  However, it is at Valencia and Inter, where even today, he is still remembered with a lot of affection and photos of him can be found in the clubs museum.  At Valencia, he became the first foreign idol of the club.

Between 1949 and 1952, Wilkes played for Inter where he played with legends such as Benito Lorenzi, Amedeo Amadei and Istvan Nyers.  In 95 games, he scored 47 goals.  Despite all his goals and the quality of the team he played for, Inter and Wilkes were unable to wrestle the Serie A title from Juventus.  In his last season, he managed 7 goals in 23 games and it became clear that injuries were starting to take an effect.  Despite the problems of a knee injury, Wilkes decided to sign for another Italian team who were rebuilding at the time.  In 1952, Wilkes was approached by Torino who were building a new team at the time and despite the knee damage, he decided to sign for them where he stayed until 1953 and only managed to score once in 12 games.

In 1953, Wilkes moved to Spain and joined Valencia whom had expressed an interest in him after playing a friendly earlier against Torino.  Along with his stay at Inter Milan, his time at Valencia would also be a huge success.  Wilkes played a total of 62 games and scored 38 goals which till today, cemented his place as a hero in the club’s history.  It is at Valencia where Wilkes would win his only ever trophy, the Copa Del Rey or Copa del Generalisimo as it was known then.  Valencia beat a Barcelona side led by the Hungarian great Laszlo Kabala 3-0 but due to rules which did not allow foreign players to play in the final he had to watch from the sidelines.


In 1954, football finally became professional in the Netherlands and when his five-year ban had been spent, Wilkes played for the national side again and in a special team boasting the likes of Kees Rijvers and Abe Linstra.  It is his record for Holland that Faas Wilkes is well known for and has his rightful place in Dutch footballing history.  Wilkes scored an amazing 35 goals in 38 goals, which was a national record until Dennis Bergkamp broke it 36 years later in 1998.

Wilkes was now 33 and combined with continuing problems with injuries he decided to return to Holland in 1956 and joined Limburg football team VVV Venlo where he played for two seasons between 1956 and 1958.  He played a total of 64 games and scored 23 goals.  VVV Venlo were only able to reach seventh in the league and in the end, Wilkes decided to leave his homeland again and return to Spanish football, joining Levante.

At Levante, Wilkes played one season between 1958 and 1959 and played a total of 34 games scoring 20 goals.  Considering his age and injury problems, this was a good goal-to-game ratio.  Despite this, Levante were not able to gain promotion and lost the playoff to rivals Las Palmas.  Wilkes was 36 and returned finally back to Holland where he would finish his playing career at Fortuna 54 where he would play for three seasons between 1959 and 1962.  He played 88 games and scored 33 times.  However before retiring, Wilkes would return to play for his first team Xerxes Rotterdam until his retirement in 1964 at the age of 41.

Faas Wilkes was one of Holland´s first international stars and played at a time when football was in a very different period of it´s history compared to today.  Many cup competitions were still in their infancy, to many it was still an amateur game and Holland was seen as a minnow of the game.

In Holland Faas Wilkes received in 1983 from his hometown of Rotterdam the Freedom of the City in 1983 and in 1995 he received the Freedom of the City  of Milan in 1995.  Johan Cruyff is even known to have called Faas Wilkes “my idol”.


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