Denzel Dumfries was so sure he wrote it on his bedroom wall: “One day, I’ll play for the national team.” Denzel was a lively kid – one of those who never seemed to stop moving, and who always had a ball at his feet. Perhaps understandably, nobody took much notice of Denzel’s bedroom wall scrawl – it was every kid’s dream, after all. But Denzel had other ideas. As he grew up, navigating the highs and lows of those first steps in the game, he kept those dreams close.
Up until the age of 17, Denzel played for amateur side Barendrecht in the suburbs of Rotterdam, the city where he was born in 1996. One day, the phone rang: “Denzel, will you come and play for the national team?” The man on the other end was Giovanni Franken, the head coach not of the Netherlands, whose orange jersey Denzel had long dreamed of pulling on, but of Aruba, a 180 km² island in the Caribbean. Denzel’s father, Boris, had been born on Aruba, which belongs to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The young Denzel accepted the call – but on one condition. He would only ever be involved in friendlies for Aruba, ensuring his chances of – one day – representing Holland would not be affected.
Few players can say that their careers really took off thanks to a match between Aruba and Guam. But that was the case for Denzel, whose wonderful long-range goal against the Micronesian island seemed to turbocharge his rise through the game back in the Netherlands.
It came as no surprise to his mother, Marleen, originally from Suriname: Denzel’s determination and doggedness had been clear since he’d been a child, when he’d ask to cut his holidays short so he could get back to training, jumping on his bike and disappearing off to the ground at the earliest opportunity.
Denzel got his first big break at Sparta Rotterdam, where he made his professional debut in February 2015. Sparta won promotion to the Eredivisie the following season, with Denzel being named “Talent of the Year” for the Dutch second tier. Those lung-bursting runs up and down the right flank were already a feature of his game, fuelled by his desire to improve with every match.
A move to Heerenveen followed in 2017, before PSV came calling the year after that.
Denzel continued to go from strength to strength at PSV, where he spent time working with the legendary Edgar Davids and a personal coach to boost his development.
And finally, in 2018, that long-awaited national team call-up materialised. Denzel’s childhood dream was realised on 13 October 2018, when he made his Netherlands debut in a Nations League match against Germany. So far, he has made 23 appearances for the Netherlands, scoring two goals – both of which came at Euro 2020, against Ukraine (the winner) and Austria.
Denzel has already played at San Siro, as an opponent, in the 2018/19 Champions League. But now he returns as an Inter player, the 11th Dutchman to don the black and blue in the club’s history.
His record of four goals, nine assists and 41 appearances for PSV last season are proof of his credentials to play for Inter, where he will link up with Netherlands team-mate Stefan de Vrij.
The dream of playing for the national team was realised, just as Denzel’s bedroom wall graffiti predicted. The dream of playing for Inter is about to begin.