By Nicholas Veevers
Edwin Van Der Sar has sent his congratulations to The FA, as the 150th anniversary celebrations begin this week.
The Dutchman spent ten years playing in England with both Fulham and Manchester United in a trophy-laden career that also took in spells with Ajax and Juventus.
And ahead of Wednesday’s official FA150 launch in London, Van Der Sar was quick to wish the organisation a ‘happy birthday’ after admitting football in England was perfect for a person like him.
Speaking to TheFA.com, Van Der Sar said: “I think it’s a great achievement, especially for an Association that has brought so much happiness and pleasure to so many people in England.
“It’s been a big part of my life. I played for six years with Ajax, two years in Italy and then ten years in England.
“So a major part of my career has been played in England and the type of football, the fans, the attention you get in the papers and on the television, even when you play for a big club like United, outside of football you are relatively left in peace.
“That's unless you are one of those who choose for yourself to be eccentric, drive fast cars or go out all the time. But if you live your life as normal, you get a great life in England.”
English football took an early hold on a young Van Der Sar, with televised games in The FA Cup proving a regular distraction whilst growing up in the Netherlands
And despite an appearance in an FA Cup Final at Wembley under his belt, along with four Premier League titles from his spell at Old Trafford to look back on, he can still recall those old days of tuning in.
“As a youngster, the first thing you heard about football in England was The FA Cup,” he added.
“When I was young, the only television channel you could get was BBC and on one Saturday in May, you had The FA Cup Final.
“For football fans in Holland, that was a great opportunity to see teams that you’d never seen before in your young life.
“I experienced it one time myself and it’s a great occasion, with the history of The Cup and the passion with which the teams play for The Cup is immense.”
As the most-capped Dutch player in history with 130 appearances and two Champions League titles to his name, Van Der Sar is one of the most celebrated footballers to have played in England.
A successful spell with Ajax in his homeland, where he is now Marketing Director, was followed by a move to Italy and Juventus in 1999.
But it was his spell with United between 2005 and 2011 where he really enjoyed his time on English shores, picking up seven major medals in his six seasons with the Reds.
“With the passion of the fans and the quality of the players that you play against, you can test yourself against the best players in the world, so that’s a great opportunity,” he explained.
“I often asked Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs about this, and they would never want to play abroad because they can play in England where they have their family, a great club and fans who adore them. So why leave?
“I was from a smaller country in Holland and you need to broaden your horizon and go to the bigger countries to play against bigger players, so that was England.”
Follow TheFA.com throughout Wednesday for more features from the official FA150 launch.
By Nicholas Veevers