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Rudi Lubbers: Broken Honour.

© Screenshot Andere Tijden Sport

In those days, we got up at night to watch boxing. Muhammad Ali caused great turmoil with his matches against Joe Frazier and George Foreman. Ali would later become the greatest sportsman of the century and really prove to be ‘The Greatest’. All of a sudden a Dutchman appeared on the scene who was chosen to fight against Ali. Leading up to the second encounter with Joe Frazier, Ali’s management had been looking for someone with about the same stature and the choice fell on Rudi Lubbers. He had just had a good fight against Joe Bugner a month earlier and had effortlessly finished the 12 rounds against this top-class fighter.

The match was organized in Jakarta and on the night of the fight, it was around 30 degrees Celsius and it was humid. For Lubbers, fighting in Indonesia was a politically sensitive issue. The Dutch colonists had not left that long ago and Ali would have a huge advantage during the fight as far as the loyalty of the fans were concerned. As the fight progressed, however, public opinion would turn and it was not Ali but Lubbers who the people sided with. That night, Rudi Lubbers presented the world with a masterpiece and made sports history. Lubbers was a good match for Ali and even managed to finish a few rounds in his favour. It would later become apparent how great Lubbers sporting performance had been when everyone agreed that Muhammad Ali had become the greatest athlete of the past century. Lubbers had achieved something that can be compared to winning the Tour de France by the Dutchmen Joop and Jan, Bergkamp’s goal against Argentina, the final win at the European Football Championship in 1988, the Dutch Epke at the Olympic Games in London. Lubbers and his heroic struggle had been assured of heroism, a status only reserved for a chosen few. That day, Rudi became a Dutch legend.

Then the unlikely episode on Dutch television of ‘Andere Tijden Sport’ in which they look back on the fight between Lubbers and Ali in Jakarta. We are shown a neglected man and his shabby lifestyle. Someone who brushes his teeth in a puddle of dirty water outside a dilapidated van. That is where he lives without water, electricity or gas. The soles of his shoes are hanging loose, and his clothes are threadbare. In extremely poor conditions. Remarkable is the clear view of life, no signs of mental/cognitive decay, no dementia, the intellectual capacities completely clear. Capable of a very thorough analysis of what happened and how he would like to continue living his life. Afterwards an interview with his son in an episode of the current affairs programme ‘De wereld draait door’. Here Mathijs van Nieuwkerk shows his mastery of interview techniques by getting to the heart of the matter very quickly. The broken honour.

The causes of this malaise.

There are well-known causes that put people in bad situations such as the poor living conditions Rudi Lubbers has ended up in. A remarkable fact, however, is that none of these common causes applies to Lubbers. Often the cause is alcohol, drug-use or a psychiatric condition. None of that is the case with Lubbers. However, if one studies the statistics very closely, there is also mention of the following. Being on the run for something or someone. ‘Andere Tijden Sport’ and the interview with his son indicates that Rudi Lubbers is on the run from himself.

Running away from yourself

Freud has given us the insight that we do not tell everything to everyone, we do not tell everything to our inner circle and that there are also things we do not even tell ourselves. The latter can literally make us sick. There are things beyond our control from which fears and melancholy arise. This leads us directly to the main characteristic of psychotherapy, which is giving people insight into unconscious processes. Recognize and process these processes so that recovery of the disorder can take place. This usually involves the decrease of anxiety perception and/or melancholy. The fierceness of unprocessed issues can be so intense that people take action to flee from this fear. The painful experience then has a direct influence on the people’s behaviour. This could be possibly explain Lubbers situation.

In the past, an activity took place that got Lubbers into trouble, resulting in a long-term deprivation of liberty. Lubbers has always denied his involvement. We cannot make a statement about this in a legal sense. With regard to the psychological context, something can be said about this. Lubbers experiences deeply in his soul a huge sense of injustice that he cannot deal with, when a member of the Dutch society. He feels he is being looked at, criticized, or whatever motive can be associated with it. Something has happened that is unvoiced inside him and it has broken his sense of honour. He obviously cannot deal with it while living in our society.

The sense of honour illustrates what people really think of themselves. It is closely related to respectability, integrity, trustworthiness and dignity. A situation arose where Lubbers could no longer match up how he saw himself in relation to matters such as respect and integrity. Concepts that have proved important to Lubbers. We can state that we are dealing with a man with a high sense of honour. Because of the situation in the past, this sense of honour has come under pressure, which can explain Lubbers’ current behaviour.

To break Lubbers out of his own isolation, he will need people who will engage him in conversation about the core of his doubts. The broken honour.

Rudi Lubbers, a phenomenal athlete, a man with a great sense of honour. A man who was able to take the loneliest step for mankind. That is the first step in the boxing ring before the fight begins (Quote Rocky Marciano). Rudi, take this last step for yourself, we can help you. You will always be the man who performed the impossible in that unparalleled fight against Muhammad Ali in Jakarta. Rudi you are a hero!


Dr. Erik Matser

Dr. Matser graduated as a clinical neuro- psychologist and has 25 years of experience in clinical neuro- psychology. He worked at St. Anna Hospital in the Netherlands for 15 years and was an associate professor of the department of neuroanatomy at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Dr. Matser obtained his PhD in 2000 on the topic ‘brain injuries in sports’ and proved that typical residual symptoms such as fatigue, decreased performance / cognition and emotional instability can be caused by an accumulation of impacts to the head. Ten years ago he started his own clinic for people with brain injury. Dr. Matser has conducted studies in New York at the Cornell University to gain more insight into residual symptoms of brain injury. Some of those ideas have been implemented in the current Fifa protocol on how to treat players who sustain a concussion during the game. This protocol has already successfully been applied for several years all over the world. He worked as the first team psychologist of Chelsea FC on the staff of the renowned coach Jose Mourinho for four years. Subsequently he joined Brendan Rodgers, current coach of Liverpool FC. At present Dr. Matser works with the Belgian football club Anderlecht FC. Eric views every person as a complete being and believes that every human spirit is like a fingerprint – completely unique. Because everyone is different, they therefore react differently to injuries. Eric’s core business is personal attention and tailored treatment.
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