In his 16-year-old career, Teun de Nooijer has seen the rise and decline of Dutch hockey. Now, in the last phase of his illustrious journey, the Netherlands captain thinks it is possible for his team to reclaim the top slot in the world.

“When I started in 1994, it was a great experience to be playing with the likes of Bovelander and Marc Dallisen. We got the second place. It was a nice experience,” de Nooijer told The Hindu in an interaction organised by the Dutch Embassy here on Monday.

Major achievements

“There were some major achievements — gold medals in 1996 and 2000 Olympics and 1998 World Cup. The World Cup win at Utrecht before the home crowd was a great experience. Some 18,000-20,000 people cheering, it was a big circus.

“In the Sydney Olympics (2000), we were the team to beat,” he reminisced.

With the rise of Australia and Germany, the Dutch lost their supremacy in the years to come. de Nooijer agreed that a few reputed names of the current side might not hang around for a long time. However, he was optimistic that his team had the reserves to march ahead.

“It is a nice mixture of young and experienced players. We have 10-11 players who can go on for a long time,” he added.

On his role changing over the years from a rookie forward to a seasoned member of the side, de Nooijer said, “when I had started, I was a left-winger. Then I played as a centre striker, then a left mid-fielder.

“Now I am playing as a striker. Apart from scoring, my job is to keep more ball possession and help others score goals.”

Physically demanding

In a physically demanding sport, it is not easy to carry on for so long. However, for de Nooijer, who has played over 400 international matches, fitness has never been an issue.

“It is not difficult for me to run and train. I train through the winter and rains,” he said.

Hockey is so deeply rooted in his life that de Nooijer cannot think of life without the sport. Soon to be 35, the five-time World Cupper aims at continuing his tryst with hockey even after calling it quits.

“After this (the ongoing World Cup), I want to play club hockey for two years — that is till 2012. After that, may be I will go for coaching. Already I am coaching my daughter (nine-year-old Philine) and want to do something,” said de Nooijer, married to former German international and 1996 Atlanta Olympian Philippa Suxdorf.

The other thing he wants is to write a book. Ask him when it will hit the stands, he says, “May be after one year.”

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