Virgil van Dijk has promised to make the 2022 World Cup an unforgettable one for Louis van Gaal after the Netherlands boss revealed he is suffering from prostate cancer.
On Sunday evening, the 70-year-old announced on Dutch TV show Humberto that he had been receiving treatment over the past few months but had elected to keep the news from his players during the March international break.
Van Dijk, who captains the Netherlands, only found out when he tuned in to watch Van Gaal’s interview and was stunned by the news, immediately texting his manager and pledging to make him proud in Qatar later this year.
Asked if it was a mark of the man that Van Gaal hid his diagnosis from the players during the recent international break, Van Dijk responded: ‘Yeah definitely. I was in shock last night when I heard his interview.
‘Obviously he’s getting his film out next week so I was just wondering how he would promote it a little bit and speak about his life and then obviously that was a big shock.
‘I messaged him after the interview. But it definitely says a lot about him. I said to him as well that he’s not that type of guy that needs a lot of sympathy, that’s how he is.
‘But I told him as well that we are definitely going to be there for him as a group whenever he needs it, and hopefully we can also make it for him a World Cup to never forget.’
Van Gaal is currently in his third spell as Netherlands head coach, having finished third at the 2014 World Cup before taking over at Manchester United, and is still expected to remain in charge for the tournament in Qatar.
Speaking about his diagnosis, Van Gaal told Humberto: ‘I think you don’t tell people you work with like that because it might influence their choices, their decisiveness, so I thought they shouldn’t know.
‘You don’t die from prostate cancer, at least not in ninety per cent of the cases. It is usually other underlying diseases that kill you. But I had a pretty aggressive form, got irradiated 25 times. Then you have a lot of management to do in order to go through life.
Virgil van Dijk makes World Cup promise to Louis van Gaal after cancer diagnosis
The Netherlands have returned to form under Van Gaal (Picture: Getty)
‘I did have preferential treatment in the hospital. I was allowed in through the back door when I went to an appointment and was immediately pushed into another room. I have been treated wonderfully.
‘You will of course tell your friends and relatives about it. The fact that nothing has come out yet also says something about my environment. That’s great.’
The Netherlands are in the same group as Qatar, Ecuador and Senegal, meaning Van Dijk will take on Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane on the opening day of the tournament.
On his upcoming face-off with Mane, Van Dijk added: ‘We joked that we were going to be in the same group and it happened. It’s going to be so hard, they’re obviously African champions. Opening game…I don’t know who decided 11am kick-off, but it’s going to be difficult.’
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