A Former Rebel and Drug Dealer Made His Pro Soccer Debut at Age 60 for the Team He Owns

Ronnie Brunswijk, who's also the vice president of Suriname, was filmed handing out cash to the other team after the game. Oh, and he has 50 children.
September 23, 2021, 2:03pm
Ronnie Brunswijk, aged 60, on the field in his soccer debut for the team he owns in Suriname, where he is also the vice president.
Ronnie Brunswijk, aged 60, on the field in his soccer debut for the team he owns in Suriname, where he is also the vice president.

Ronnie Brunswijk's CV gets more impressive every day. The 60-year-old vice president of Suriname—a former guerrilla fighter and a convicted drug trafficker—is now the oldest soccer player to make his professional debut in an international club competition.

Brunswijk lined up for the team he owns, Inter Moengotapoe, in a match Tuesday evening in a stadium he named after himself—Ronnie Brunswijkstadion. Brunswijk’s squad squared off against Honduras’ Olimpia team in a match for the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf), one of FIFA's six continental leagues, where teams from across the region play. 

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Brunswijk was born in 1961, six months before Concacaf was founded. The vice president of the small South American nation played over 50 minutes at center forward and completed the majority of his passes, according to ESPN. He is also the team’s captain. 

It’s reported that Brunswijk has over 50 children, and at least one of them suited up beside him on Tuesday night. His son Damian played 28 minutes before being subbed out.

While his team lost the game 0-6, Brunswijk appeared to be in good spirits after the defeat. Videos showed him entering the opposing team's locker room and handing out wads of cash to his Honduran competitors.

Concacaf issued a statement afterward promising a “formal investigation” into the video because it “raises potential integrity issues.”

Regardless of the Concacaf investigation, Brunswijk won't be able to play in the next game anyway because it takes place outside of Suriname. Brunswijk was charged with cocaine trafficking in the Netherlands, convicted in absentia in 1999 and sentenced to eight years in prison. He is believed to be wanted by Interpol and subject to arrest if he leaves the country.   

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Brunswijk allegedly began his criminal career as a bank robber in the 1980s after being discharged from the army. At the time he was leading a guerrilla group named the Jungle Commando in a fight against the Suriname government and allegedly distributed the funds he stole among the people, earning him the nickname the “Robin Hood of Suriname.”

By the 1990s his guerrilla fighters had signed a peace treaty with the government and were incorporated into the army. Soon after, he was charged for his role in drug trafficking

Brunswijk has denied the allegations in the past and claims his wealth comes from timber and gold mining concessions.

The Inter Moengotapoe club hails from the same Marowijne district of Suriname where Brunswijk grew up, close to the border with French Guiana. Brunswijk’s recent political rise also made history in Suriname when he became the first vice president from the marginalized group of descendants of escaped slaves who inhabit the region known as Maroons.