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Henricus Bernardus Johannes Maria (Harry) Vermeegen (born May 20, 1950) is a Dutch (sports-)journalist and television personality. He is best known for collaborating with Henk Spaan on the tv-shows Pisa, Verona, Die 2 and Die 2:Nieuwe Koeien.
Vermeegen was born and raised in Amsterdam; he had a Conservative Roman-Catholic upbringing. Vermeegen played football at De Meer with future Ajax-coach Louis van Gaal among others, and made it as far as the fourth team. Rather than taking his skills to the next level, he excelled in writing school-essays and took his teacher's advice to become a sports-journalist.
At 18, Vermeegen began his apprenticeship at De Tijd, one of the leading newspapers; he went from archiving photos to contributing to the sports-supplement until its cancellation in 1972. Specialized in articles with an added sense of humour and approaching otherwise unapproachable athletes like Johan Cruyff or Pelé, Vermeegen continued writing for shortlived football-magazines Kick (the coverage of the 1974 World Cup being his sole contribution) and Accent, and established periodicals Panorama and Nieuwe Revu.
Collaboration with Henk Spaan
Meanwhile, Vermeegen appeared on Radio Noordzee's AD Sport & Sportwereld alongside Mart Smeets and Nico Steenbergen. In 1978 he joined VARA's Tussen Start en Finish where he met Henk Spaan who shared his philosophy that sports and humour are a match. They survived a major exodus and continued the show all by themselves till 1981; it won them the Silver Reiss Microphone in 1980. Tussen Start en Finish was outlived by its tv-spin-off Voetbal '80 which actually ran since 1979; Vermeegen taped interviews home and abroad, but left during the 1982-1983 season, citing the crew's lack of passion for football as a reason.
In 1982, Vermeegen and Spaan launched the TV-show Pisa, originally designed to tackle issues that needed to be set straight like the Leaning tower of Pisa but soon became a platform for sketches, songs and soap-parodies. Items like De Gewone Man (a fruitless quest for the common man), De Glazenwasser (a window-cleaner becoming a local attraction by indulging in a stripping-game), and Popie Jopie (the Pope exploring Dutch customs prior his official State visit) made Spaan and Vermeegen household names. Inbetween commitments, Vermeegen hosted the Dutch version of Japan's Ultra Quiz.
As their popularity grew, so declined VARA's fortunes; despite a new three-year contract, Spaan and Vermeegen switched over to Veronica and changed the name of the programme to Verona. Items like Bovenop Het Nieuws (on top of the news-reports), Radio Perfecto and De Boerderie (father and son arguing at an ancient farmhouse) consolidated their succes; both on TV and in the charts.
After seven years of satire, Vermeegen and Spaan decided to make a fresh start as Die 2 (Those two); they taped a sitcom about finding a location for a sitcom and travelled around the world to promote Dutch culture. Inbetween, they returned to their sports-roots by covering the major football-tournaments, and the 1992 Olympics. In 1993 they launched the football-only show Die 2:Nieuwe Koeien (the title being a word-play on the 1984 compilation-show Ouwe Koeien van Pisa); Vermeegen was back on location spending quality-time with players, coaches and (celebrity-)fans home and abroad.
Acrimonious split and solo-career
Inbetween commitments, Vermeegen hosted the football-quiz Balla Balla and the footvolley tourament at Juan-les-Pins, France. In 1996, he decided to end his collaboration with Spaan and go solo fulltime. Vermeegen had grown dissatisfied with Spaan's lack of input in Die 2:Nieuwe Koeien, after the latter spent more time working on the Hard gras-magazine. He was to announce his plan at the end of the season, but the press leaked details of his secret meeting with John de Mol Jr., speculating a contract at the forthcoming Sport 7-channel. Spaan was infuriated by the secondhandnews and the duo have never been in touch again with each other once the last season was completed.
Vermeegen, subsequently branded an opportunist, never appeared on the shortlived Sport 7 and was actually advised against it in case failure would damage his career. Staying at Veronica, he made De Regenjas which was named after his trademark trenchcoat. Both praised and dismissed as a solo-version of Die 2:Nieuwe Koeien he drew more viewers than Spaan's Hard Gras tv-show, and also did football-voice-overs for RTL5 in 1999 regarding the qualification-matches for the European championship 2000.
By that time, Vermeegen had grown tired of his own formula; literally, as he was not ready to make FC Vermeegen (a football- game-show) and Heppie De Peppie (a quest for positivity) successful efforts as well. Vermeegen was diagnosed with a benign tumour; based in Aruba since his heydays, he relocated to Florida have the tumour removed. His lust for life returned, but his contract expired.
In 2006, Vermeegen returned on Dutch television, albeit on a project basis; he covered the World Cup for TROS' Zomeravondcafé. His 2007-documentary of Ajax' trip to South Africa was followed by a two-year-contract at SBS6 where he made Harry van Oranje and a series of Oranjejournaals which ressurected items from De Regenjas. These efforts were broadcast between 2008 and 2010 in support of the qualification-matches. In 2011, Vermeegen was back on Veronica-radio as a football-voice-over, and signed to RTL7 for two seasons of Leven Als Een Prof; his television-swansong covered both professionals and amateurs.
Vermeegen has since embraced Youtube and other types of social media; he started his own videochannel, Harry Vermeegen official. Now living in Spain, Vermeegen appeared with Spaan in a 2018 broadcast documentary on their 18-year collaboration; they were interviewed separately.
Vermeegen wrote two books; Ballenjongen (1995), a collection of remarkable encounters with football-players, and Voetbal & Co (2001)
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