Genero Zeefuik knows precisely what people are saying about his size. Being told to lose weight is nothing new to the Dutchman.
He heard it in the Netherlands, now he hears it in Scotland. Thing is, to Zeefuik, those opinions carry very little weight themselves.
The on-loan Hearts striker spoke out today, stressing he is happy with his bulky frame and has no plans to shed any pounds. He maintained he is comfortable at around 14-and-a-half stone and doesn’t listen when people in football carp about his size.
Since arriving on loan from FC Groningen last month, Zeefuik has scored four times in five appearances for Hearts. That has silenced some of the doubters ahead of tomorrow’s journey to Queen of the South. Nonetheless, others will continue to question his physique. It has become part of life for the 24-year-old.
Speaking exclusively to the Evening News, Zeefuik admitted he has heard all the jibes and comments before.
“Everybody says that. For me, I feel fit,” he said. “People say: ‘if you lose more weight, maybe you play better’. Now I have four goals and nobody says that I must lose weight.
“Everybody says some things but some things are a lot of bulls**t. I feel fit and I hope that I can become better here. I’m happy with my weight.
“The supporters say they are very happy with me. They always say: ‘You’re a big guy, you’re a big man, your goals are good and I hope that you stay here’. It is very good to hear fans say that they hope you can stay with their team. They trust me.”
Match fitness is improving, but Zeefuik believes it could be next month before he is fully up to speed with Scottish football. He spent the first half of the season playing in the reserves at Groningen, where he is surplus to requirements. Joining Hearts’ pursuit of the Scottish Championship title has taken his breath away somewhat.
“The first week, I thought I would go onto the pitch for the last 20 minutes if the trainer trusts me, but he put me in the first XI. I was very happy and I scored two goals. That is what I want,” he said.
“For me, it is very hard at the moment. In Holland I only did training and now I’m playing matches and training really hard. I am feeling better every week. Maybe in two weeks I will be fully fit.”
That first game in howling gales and sleet at Dumbarton was indeed an experience for Zeefuik. “I was thinking: ‘Wow. This is Scotland?’ It was raining, the weather was horrible, but I played and scored two goals and missed a penalty. The first game was good for me but the weather was just terrible. I’m feeling better and better every week. I hope I can score more goals now and play well for the team. That is my aim.”
The rapport between Hearts fans and their new Dutch cult hero may only be temporary, though. Zeefuik is scheduled to return to Groningen at the end of the season as his contract there still has another year to run. The Dutch club are keen to sell the player and recoup some of the ¤500,000 they paid PSV Eindhoven for him in 2012.
Hearts have yet to decide whether they are interested in a permanent move. However, Zeefuik is keen to stay in Edinburgh if possible.
“I’m very happy here,” he said. “For the first half of the season I didn’t play at Groningen. Now I’m playing and I’m enjoying this experience. The people here and the fans, everything is amazing. I love it here.
“The best thing for me is that I am playing well. That is better than my goals. Scoring is great and it makes me happy, but my first priority is to play well and play for the team. If I score, that is an extra.
“At first it was very difficult, especially in the first game. You play more of a possession game in Holland, but here it is very hard work. That was the difference for me. Everyone in the team helped me and now I feel happy. Maybe I’m going to stay here next season, I don’t know.
“I came here with my girlfriend and my child and we have looked at the city.
“They feel okay and they are happy here. Edinburgh is a nice city and I think it is a nice place.”
Other places like Dumbarton, Livingston and Dumfries have no intention of being so nice when Hearts come to town. Tomorrow is certain to be another battle at Palmerston Park.
“I think it will be a very hard game. We hope we can win there but it’s not on grass, it’s on astroturf. That makes it very difficult,” he said.
“I have lived only on grass but it’s okay. Most clubs in Holland only have grass. I think three teams have astro so it’s not the favourite there.
“We are in first place in the league right now and we hope we can win every game. I don’t think we have any pressure.”