“They were the worst days of my career. Everything fell to pieces in a single day,” said Quincy Promes, recalling the tough times he went through back in 2008. “I was 16 years old and had just been booted out of Ajax. I couldn’t stop crying for a couple of days. I didn’t know what to do with myself.”

Fast-forward eight years and Promes is the star man at Spartak Moscow, one of the best players in the Russian Premier League and part of a rejuvenated Netherlands squad currently restoring some pride to Dutch football. After moving to Moscow, the young forward began to make serious progress and was soon receiving regular call-ups to the Netherlands national team during one of its darkest periods in history.

This summer was the first time since 1984 that the Oranje failed to qualify for the UEFA European Championship. During the preliminaries for the tournament in France, Promes was still a newcomer to the Dutch set-up and did not see too much playing time. Now though, he is a key member of a young group of players called upon to lead the Netherlands to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

“We’ve turned a page and it’s time for a new generation,” 24-year-old Promes told FIFA.com. “We’ve got a new squad of players and a lot of talent. There’s a good atmosphere in the team. I feel a sense of responsibility as well: the time has come to perform for my country like I do for Spartak. I think the fans are expecting it.”

Promes will have to prove his ability against some top-quality opposition. Joining the Netherlands in Group A of the UEFA qualifiers are footballing heavyweights France and Sweden, against whom Danny Blind’s side recently earned a 1-1 draw away from home.

The Spartak winger is currently playing in Arjen Robben’s position for his country while the Bayern Munich superstar makes his way back from injury. “No one can replace him, Robben is Robben,” Promes insisted. “But as I already said, we have a lot of talent in our side: Memphis Depay, Luciano Narsingh, Steven Berghuis and myself.”

Fans’ favourite at Spartak
It was in Russia that Promes developed into the man capable of lighting up the Netherlands team. In 2014, he left FC Twente to join Spartak Moscow and quickly became an idol for the supporters, who voted him Fans’ Player of the Season two years running.

Quincy has finished second top-scorer in each of his full seasons in the Russian top flight, firing in 13 and 18 goals respectively, and looks to have continued his sparkling form into his third year in Moscow. That consistency prompted the club’s hierarchy to offer him a new and significantly improved five-year contract in August in a desperate bid to keep hold of their star player.

Clearly, the Dutchman feels at home in the country hosting the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017 and the World Cup in 2018.

“There are so many stereotypes about Russia,” he said. “People who have never been here constantly ask me the same questions: ‘Is it cold there? How old are the people? How do they play football if it’s so cold?’. I don’t bother trying to convince them otherwise, it’s pointless. I could go on for hours about how beautiful Moscow is and how you can actually walk outside in just an ordinary t-shirt, but they won’t believe me. Until they come and see for themselves, everyone will suspect that it snows here every day. All I do is simply invite them to come and stay. Everybody who has stayed with me wants to come back. I think that tells its own story.”

Dance floor or training ground
In Moscow, like in any other massive city, you can find anything you desire. For some this can be distracting from football, but Promes has kept his head down and his motivation up. “I was 22 when I made the decision to come here,” he said. “So I was aware that if it didn’t go well, I’d still have the chance to put it right. Also, I love challenging myself and I know who I want to be. Everybody has a choice: you either become a star on the dance floor and go around chasing girls in a big city or you make sure you’re the best player on the pitch.”

“I have a beautiful wife and two daughters,” he continued. “If I start behaving differently, I risk not only destroying my dream but my life as well. I’ve already done that once and had to start over. I climbed back up but I don’t want to fall down again. I remember perfectly well when Spartak fans were asking: ‘Who is this guy? What’s he capable of? What did the club play €12 million for?’. Now I feel they’re unsatisfied if I go two games without scoring. This is a compliment for me. It means I’ve set the bar really high and motivates me to become even better.”

It was probably this exact quality which helped the Amsterdam native back in 2008 when his world had been turned upside down.

“I had a really big mouth and always said what I thought but not always at the right time,” he said. “I was also greedy on the pitch and convinced I was better than everyone else on the planet at football because I was at the Ajax academy, where every young boy in Holland dreams of going. It reached the point where my behaviour was annoying those around me so such that they got rid of me.

“When that happened, I realised that in fact I had nothing. The club bus wasn’t picking me up from home, I had to go on the train but had no money and I had nowhere to eat. If I’m being honest, I cried for a couple of days. I even thought about throwing it all away and giving up football. It was really tough for me. That was a dangerous moment in my life: one wrong step and you’re out on the streets. But I chose to fight for my dream because I really wanted to play football.”

The dream has come true, but Promes will not be easing up any time soon.

“I’m really close to becoming a top player,” he concluded. “That’s what I want to be. I’ve broken into the national team and I’m one of the leaders at my club. My aim is to win trophies with Spartak. It would also be really great to come to Russia 2018 as part of the Netherlands squad because this feels like home to me.”

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