It’s been six weeks since Inessa Kaagman returned to her family home in the Netherlands but the Everton midfielder has ensured she’s kept in contact with the fans, writes Tom Dean.
Kaagman celebrated her 24th birthday earlier this month on lockdown in Hoorn as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to make normal life impossible.
For a footballer it means training at home, keeping in touch with your club via Zoom and doing whatever you can to pass the time.
But Kaagman has taken it upon herself to go one step further during the interruption and offer her services back to the Everton community by taking part in the Blue Family campaign.
The Toffees number 8 has previously involved herself various face-to-face activities in the community but is now reaching out to fans over the phone and has even given up her time to lead some online language tutorials.
“I had a phone call with a fan called Natalie and it was really nice because she’s stuck at home and she usually works in the community so she’s been missing that,” said Kaagman.
“She didn’t know that I would be calling either so she was really surprised and I think it’s important for us to give something back to fans that support us all year round.
“I’ve also been teaching Dutch to the Everton fans on Twitter but I don’t think I’d make a good teacher I’m far too impatient.
“I love languages and have been studying Spanish for about three years now – I left all of my study stuff in England so I can’t really do that now.”
Kaagman joked that was just an ‘excuse’ not to keep up with her homework but the more urgent fact remains that she’s currently separated from her teammates and the normal routines of a professional athlete.
And as many of us are finding out; there are only so many books we can read, games we can play, puzzles we can do to fill the empty void of working and socialising.
“I miss the interaction with my teammates because normally we have more than 30 people around you everyday but now it’s just me – and I’m someone who likes to have people around me,” she added.
“I miss seeing my friends too but the rules are less relaxed in Holland so we can kind of see each other two metres apart but it’s not the same.
“I have started to make some jigsaw puzzles but the weather has been really nice too so I’ve been outside trying to get a tan.
“I’m already on my third book and me and my brother have been playing a lot of Mario Kart so I’ve just been using it as a chance to do things that I would normally do.”
Kaagman moved to Everton before the 2018/19 season, having spent her entire career at Ajax, in a deal that took fellow Dutchwoman Marthe Munsterman the other way.
The two-time Eredivisie champion slotted straight into the Toffees midfield and began to build reputation for scoring spectacular goals, including a 30-yard rocket against local rivals Liverpool.
But Everton failed to build any sort of consistency over the course of the season and finished 11th with just relegated Yeovil beneath them.
Kaagman’s second season however has coincided with a tremendous upturn with Everton sitting seventh as things stand hot on the heels of Manchester United, Reading and Spurs.
“It’s a huge improvement from last year so I am really happy to have played a part in that,” said Kaagman, who has been used in a variety of attacking positions this season.
“Last year was my first season away from the Eredivisie and Ajax and when I was there we were always playing for the Championship and the cups.
“But the league here is much better and far more physical and the game moves a lot faster, the Dutch game is catching up but it’s not at this level yet.
“For me it was very different to be that low in the table and it was annoying because I wasn’t used to losing that many games but this season we’ve improved lots in results and in the football we’ve been playing.
“It’s a pity that we are on a break now because we wanted to see how far up the table we could’ve finished.”
Kaagman’s club form has also seen her earn a more pronounced role within the Dutch national team featuring in all three friendlies played in 2020.
The midfielder was part of Sarina Weigman’s squad that won a silver medal at the World Cup last summer but was unused throughout the tournament with the like of Sherida Spitse, Jill Roord, Jackie Groenen and Danielle van de Donk preferred in her position.
The OranjeLeeuwinnen certainly have a wealth of talent in the middle of the pitch but Kaagman is confident she will have a prominent role to play there if she continues to work hard for it.
“The World Cup was a great experience and even though I didn’t play any minutes I still feel like I won the silver medal,” she said.
“It’s not the kind of thing you can relive easily because of how hard it is to get to the final so I will always remember it.
“Of course I’d love to have been more involved but I have accepted that and I just have to work hard to make sure that I am next time.
“The last camp was really good for me because I played all three games and I was really proud of that.”
Daughter of a former second-tier footballer with SC Telstar, Kaagman cites her father and brother and the main influences on her career so far but does admit to liking the style of Xavi, Iniesta and Christian Eriksen growing up.
The list consists of male influences but that may be less surprising given the Eredivisie was not established in its current format until 2015, the same year the national team reached their first World Cup.
Since then women’s football in the Netherlands grown exponentially but in the current climate some of that progress could now be diminished after the present season was cancelled.
Question marks still remain over what is to become of the current WSL campaign and the impact that might have clubs but Kaagman prefers not to worry about that which she cannot change.
“I don’t really feel threatened as a female footballer because I don’t really think about it,” she added.
“I am just someone that enjoys playing football and I really don’t know what is going to happen in the future.”
Follow Tom on Twitter @tombendean