is a great read: Article: Van Dijk's long rise began the summer he turned 17, in 2008, when he shot up 18 centimeters (7 inches) in height. Before then, Van Dijk has admitted to the BBC, he was a slow, short right-back with an unstable knee, not a player who was good enough to dominate as a central defender. ... Van Dijk might have ended up being a full-time dishwasher if it weren't for the intervention of the Koeman family. Martin Koeman -- a Dutch international and father of two Dutch internationals, Erwin and Ronald -- scouted the 18-year-old for the family's ancestral club, FC Groningen. In 2010, Van Dijk headed north on a free transfer. He cycled to reserve-team practices because he couldn't yet drive. Groningen didn't let him play matches because he was overtired after a season playing for Willem II's reserves and under-18s simultaneously. ... There would be further setbacks. Most notably, aged 20, he nearly died. After days of undiagnosed medical problems, he suddenly found himself in the emergency ward of the Groningen hospital with peritonitis and kidney poisoning. He later told Voetbal International magazine: "I remember lying in that bed. The only thing I could see was tubes. My body was broken. I couldn't do anything. For the first time in my life, soccer was a side issue.