Doha, Qatar — Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal was taken by surprise during a World Cup press conference on Thursday when a Senegalese journalist told the Dutchman he was a long-time fan.
“I have no questions for you. This is just the opportunity to tell you that I have been a fan for 3 years, ”said Papa Mahmoud Gueye. “I love you.”
The 71-year-old Van Gaal, sometimes seen as a stern-faced, taciturn and stubborn figure in football, grinned before answering.
“I’m going to give you a big hug after this, because I love you saying this and I mean it seriously,” Van Gaal said through an interpreter. “Because people don’t often tell me that. So we’ll have a big hug afterwards.
Van Gaal kept his word, stepping off the stage and waving the reporter to join him in a warm embrace.
Gueye, 28, works for the Senegalese publication Taggat.sn.
Gueye told The Associated Press it was an honor to share such a touching moment with Van Gaal, a legendary and highly innovative manager who led teams like Ajax, Barcelona and Manchester United.
“He is one of the greatest figures in , said Gueye. He was also happy to see that there were people who liked him, and he said to me, ‘Let’s give ourselves a hug’.”
Gueye said Van Gaal had acquired an unfair reputation as a grump over the years.
“That’s not really the case. From a distance, people usually think he’s uncool,” Gueye said. “But he’s a smiling 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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