Although a talented speed skater and track sprinter, teenage Abe Lenstra preferred football. It proved to be a good choice, as he is still considered one of the all-time great Dutch footballers. He played with SC Heerenveen for much of his career, and is still very much identified with that club - a statue of Lenstra stands outside their stadium also which bears his name. With Heerenveen, Lenstra won the Northern Championship eight times, 1942-44 and 1946-50, but they never managed to win the overall Dutch title in that period. The fast and frequently scoring forward was reportedly offered a blank contract by Italian team Fiorentina, but Lenstra preferred to stay with Heerenveen. With the introduction of professional football in the Netherlands, Lenstra did however change teams, playing for SC Enschede from 1954 through 1960. The team narrowly lost the 1958 title, losing the tie-breaking match 0-1 in overtime. By then 40-years-old, Lenstra transferred to rival Enschedese Boys, playing with them for three more seasons before retiring. Lenstra had made his national team début in 1940, and would win 47 caps, scoring 33 times. The 1948 Olympics were the only international tournament he competed in, as the Netherlands did not qualify for the World Championships during his career. After his playing career, he was active as an amateur coach, while working for a large brewery. He suffered from a brain hemorrhage in 1977 and was forced to spend the last years of his life in a wheelchair. In 1951, Lenstra was elected Dutch Athlete of the Year - the first person bestowed with that honor.