Early Life and Career

Jan (John) van Hoboken was born in 1908 in Aalten, Gelderland, Netherlands. He began his career in 1929 when he accepted a position at the Borsumij trading company in the Netherlands East Indies. In 1932, he married while living there. When the Japanese invasion of the Dutch colony became imminent, van Hoboken was mobilised. Captured in 1942, he endured forced labour on the infamous Burma Railway as a prisoner of war, ultimately being one of the fortunate survivors. After the war, he put his honed business acumen to use negotiating military deals among the Netherlands, Australia, and the United States.

Immigration to Australia and Football Legacy

John van Hoboken on the left

Seeing new business opportunities, van Hoboken relocated his family to Melbourne, Australia in 1948. He became a partner in the Australia-Middle East Trading Company (AMETCO) and his interest in business never waned.

His beloved sport from his youth was football (soccer), he had played for Velocitas in Apeldoorn. His passion for football was rekindled through his AMETCO partner Jack Skolnik, who was involved with the Hakoah Sports Club. After a playful challenge from Skolnik, van Hoboken formed Wilhelmina D.S.C. (Dutch Soccer Club) in 1953. As the founding president of Wilhelmina, he financed the club himself, asking only for full control in return.

Van Hoboken actively scouted for Dutch players who had immigrated to Australia. Despite initial concerns about playing in a lower league, the concept of an all-Dutch club was enthusiastically received. In 1953, Wilhelmina debuted in the Victorian Fourth Division reserves competition, finishing in second place.

Businessman and FIFA Troubles

A savvy businessman, van Hoboken saw opportunities beyond football – he was the first to bring Adidas boots into Australia. His practice of arranging employment, housing, and even cars for talented players caught the attention of FIFA, causing some difficulties later in the decade. One such acquisition was Dutch national football player Michel de Bruyckere.

Jubilee Park first purpose built soccer grounds in Melbourne. John van Hoboken addressing the guests at the opening in 1962 (National Archives of Australia)


Jan van Hoboken was inducted into the Victorian Football Hall of Fame in 1967. Financial hardships forced him to transfer ownership of Ringwood, and he was given $25,000 for player acquisition costs. While tension arose due to his loss of control, it seemed to have been resolved at the club’s 40th anniversary celebration in 1993. Sadly, van Hoboken passed away from a heart attack six months later at the age of 85.