How do Feyenoord solve a problem like Kazim-Richards? Easy. Get rid of him
“I’ll be waiting outside for you at two o’clock. One step closer and you are going to sleep. Many times. You’re going down.”
It may be a shock to know that these are not the words of an aggravated school bully threatening a class mate. Nor are they a phony intimidation tactic said in jest between friends. This is a genuine warning and invitation for a fight from a 29-year-old husband, father and professional football player to a journalist.
The incident occurred as a result of an article Algemeen Dagblad journalist Mikos Gouka had written, revealing that many people within Feyenoord have had enough of Kazim-Richards’ violent tendencies, petulance and disruptive attitude. So, to show his distaste for the piece, just before the press conference ahead of Feyenoord’s crucial game with PSV, the Turkey international opted to show the violent, petulant and disruptive side of his personality by threatening to knock a journalist out.
Obviously, then, Gouka’s article was completely made up and has no basis.
The incident has put the English-born forward’s future at De Kuip in doubt, with coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst remarking that the situation is “not good” and subsequently leaving him out of the squad for Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to PSV. On Monday, it was revealed that the striker has been suspended until 1st February. After that, if he has not been sold, they will review the situation.
The surprise, however, is not that Kazim-Richards is in danger of being ousted from the Rotterdam giants, it is that he is still there and has been for so long.
This is not an unexpected lashing out from him, in fact, the only shock is that it has been a while since we have heard of any ludicrous behaviour.
Kazim-Richards is, to put it mildly, a sensitive fellow who is not afraid to speak his mind, or, failing that, use his fists to express his opinion.
The former Fenerbahce and Galatasaray attacker joined initially on loan from Bursaspor for the 2014-15 season and it did not take long for him to cement himself as the club’s main central striker – taking over from the unreliable and sub-par Mitchell te Vrede. While his finishing left a lot to be desired, his movement was decent and he certainly tried hard. At best, he showed the makings of a decent second striker, but overall there was a feeling Feyenoord could and should have been looking for more consistent goalscorers.
If his performances off the pitch were nothing to scream about, his conduct off of it was highly alarming and at times outrageous and despicable.
His moaning about Jasper Cillessen’s “baby games” after the two clashed during a 0-0 draw with Ajax smacked of petulance and immaturity – a constant theme throughout his time in Rotterdam. While his effort throughout that first season was commendable, his mentality remained an issue.
Kazim-Richards took it a step further, though, when he bickered with Zakaria Labyad during Vitesse’s 4-1 win over Feyenoord. The issue between the two continued after the final whistle, as the striker confronted Labyad in the tunnel and allegedly punched him.
Despite all of his flaws, unpredictability and apparent mental instability, Feyenoord opted to make his move a permanent, even though it seemed they had no use for him as the season started, having signed Dirk Kuyt and Michiel Kramer in the summer while Anass Achahbar waited on the sidelines.
Still, the ex-Brighton Hove & Albion man grabbed the headlines immediately after his first game of the 2015-16 campaign for two reasons. He netted Feyenoord’s opening goal of the season to help send them on their way to a 3-2 win over FC Utrecht and followed it up with a display of anger or frustration in his celebration. In his post-match interview he seemed to threaten his former team-mate Te Vrede, who, upon signing for Heerenveen in the summer, criticised Feyenoord for not giving him a fair chance up front.
Te Vrede said: “I gave my confidence to the club, but did not get it back. I was not appreciated. I could live with a reserve role when Graziano Pellè was there, but last year was different. Kazim-Richards really did not score more than me. It was quite hard to stay calm.”
While Te Vrede, who had joined Feyenoord in 2012 from Excelsior before his move up north, was airing an understandable grievance with the club, Kazim-Richards seemed to take it as a direct attack upon himself.
After that game, he immediately issued a warning to the 24-year-old: “I’ve read some quotes from a former player of ours,” he said in his Fox Sports interview. “What he said made me angry. I will not mention names, but it is clear who is involved. If I run into him, then I will talk to him about it. When you leave here and talk shit about a former team-mate of yours, then it’s not very respectful.”
The incidents have not stopped there, of course. He was caught on Fox’s camera telling a Roda JC fan: “Suck my dick, pussy”, and also kicked water bottles around the dugout after being substituted in another game, though he admitted he was merely frustrated by missing two chances.
His behaviour during the club’s training camp in Portugal during the winter break was something the technical staff had to talk to him about as well.
And so we come to Friday’s debacle. Players, like anyone, can be sensitive to criticism and are allowed to be frustrated, but no one on the planet can expect to be immune from it. As professional athletes are more susceptible to it than most, Kazim-Richards must have a thicker skin and as a 29-year-old who considers himself experienced and who has now played in five countries for 10 teams, he must be used to it by now.
It is incredible, though, that someone who has courted so much controversy and criticism has seemingly never stopped to evaluate his own problems, weaknesses and flaws. Gouka’s article on him was apparently well sourced and nothing in it was surprising.
Yet Kazim-Richards, who was convicted and fined for a homophobic gesture in 2014, was stupid enough to challenge a member of the media to a fight before a press conference and have either no idea of or no interest in the consequences.
It was a preposterous and uncalled for reaction from a player who has given nothing to show he deserves anything but criticism.
Having started just four games in the league this term, Kazim-Richards offers no positives to the club. The latest incident should not be the final straw – that should have been drawn a long time ago. The large settlement it would take to cancel his contract makes it tough, but Feyenoord must find a way to cut loose a player who should not have stayed beyond the summer. He is an embarrassment and a disruption to the dressing room, something a team looking to improve and challenge for a place in the top two cannot tolerate.
Now, excuse me while I make sure my door is locked, lest I be put to sleep several times by a certain professional footballer.