Constant “Jimmy” Cremer
From Ango-Ango to Tilburg to the Dutch East Indies
The story of Constant Cremer starts in Ango-Ango in the former Belgian Congo, where he was born. From Africa, he moved to Tilburg where he played for Dutch professional football club Willem II from 1902 until 1907. His debut for Willem II marked a special occasion, because it made him the first football player of African origin to play in the Netherlands. In 1908, after his time with Willem II came to an end, he went to the Dutch colonies in the East Indies to work in the sugar industry. In 1927, Cremer married Nelli Berlauwt, also a woman of mixed descent.
Jan Cremer, Constant’s father, was a merchant working for the African Trade Association. Constant’s mother, Sofie, was an African princess. His father wanted Constant to have a good education. Sadly, on his way to the Netherlands in 1889, his father Jan passed away. In 1902, Constant was placed under the care of his aunt Nicoline Ambagstheer Cremer. Her husband worked at the workshop of the Dutch railway corporation in Tilburg. At this time, Constant was often called “Jimmy” and attended the local state school as a student. His football talent did not go unnoticed, and Constant soon found himself playing for local football club Willem II. In 1904, he and Willem II even went on to win the regional championship. In the local newspaper, he was given a hero status: “he plays his Congolese style, he can perform a lot, if he wants to, is technically very gifted and has good tactical commitment.” Other outlets referred to him as “the n****” and remarked his style of play as “good but lazy.”
As a mulat (the word formerly used to describe a child who had a white and black parent) and the negative societal connotations that flow from that, while also being an orphan, a rather difficult situation resulted for Constant “Jimmy” Cremer in the Netherlands. Although Constant received a lot of praise for his footballing capacities, his family thought that there was no future for him in the Netherlands (there was no professional football at the time, so nobody had a secure future with just football). Instead, he went on to Amsterdam to receive an education with regards to the sugar industry located in the Dutch East Indies. The prominent Cremer family, with his uncle being the Minister of Colonial Affairs, ensured Constant’s life in the Dutch East Indies was off to a good start. He worked as a chemical analyst, and later as a vice-principal of a girls’ shelter. He passed away in 1937, leaving behind his wife Nellie and their daughter Constance. In 1956, the family decided to leave newly independent Indonesia, together with grandchild Margreeth. The family was neither Congolese, Dutch, or Indonesian.
What can the life story of Constant Cremer tell us about migration from Africa to Europe and the difficulties of settling in a new country in the context of European imperialism? How might Constant Cremer’s presence at Willem II have been experienced in the city of Tilburg? What role can sports like football contribute to the inclusion processes of migrants like Constant Cremer and many others?
Find out more
This life story was provided by Willem II historian Thijs Kemmeren and his colleague Jan de Leeuw. There is a lot more about his life! You can read more about the life of Constant Cremer in the magazine: Tilburg, tijdschrift voor geschiedenis, monumenten en cultuur. You can find it under the header: “Constant Cremer, voetballer in Tilburg met Afrikaanse wortels.”
Constant Cremer posing for a team picture with Willem II (Photo: Archief Willem II – color enhancement by Jan van Oevelen ©).
LIFE STORIES To discover now
Do you wanna know more?
HISTORY CAN BE EXPLORED THROUGH THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS
Browse our collection of stories about football history and inclusion. With the history of football being made up of millions of stories, of individuals and communities, of movements and processes, we offer stories that can inspire our cultural conversations today.
Get to know untold stories where individuals are making history with football. When faced with insurmountable challenges, individuals past and present can use football as a cultural force to foster positive change in society. We honour these individuals and tell their ‘untold’ stories in short videos.
Explore our innovative educational resources that use football’s history, heritage and legacy to engage young people. The resources include ready-made lesson plans and historical source collections for school history education as well as toolkit with activities for non-formal settings.
In the wake of the 2015 migration peak, activists and volunteers across Europe have been involved in supporting refugees, sometimes with the simple act of offering space and friendship to participate in football through grassroots clubs to help newcomers integrate.
BBC Sport’s Football Focus visits Bundesliga side FC Union Berlin, a “rebellious” football club from East Berlin with a special set of fans, playing their first season in Germany’s top flight 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
LATEST POST You may also be interested in
A class of high school history students in Oslo was asked to create an ideal starting XI line-up based on Human Rights. Find out why and how it went.
A loving fan and musician put together his two passions and created this compilation of tunes from the Jazz Age.
Prayer days on stadiums, faith rooms and inclusive chants: here is how English football is adapting to a changing world.
Engage young people through Football Makes History’s own Guidebook and Toolkit for promoting social inclusion in formal education or Non-formal settings
Telling the history of a city through football stories: a celebration of Amsterdam.