Credit: Frank Uijlenbroek / World Sport Pics






Netherlands legend Teun de Nooijer reflects on majestic career

It has been six years since Teun de Nooijer, one of the most outrageously gifted hockey players the world has ever seen, brought the curtain down on his competitive career at the age of 38.

The extraordinary Dutchman enjoyed the sort of career most athletes can only dream of. His raw talent – a frightening combination of blistering pace, astonishing skills and a predatory instinct for scoring goals – was noticed early, being awarded the first of a world record 453 international caps aged 18, way back in 1994.

Such was his incredible longevity, De Nooijer – who was named FIH Player of the Year in 2003, 2005 and 2006 – made his last international appearance some 18 years later, competing in the final of the London 2012 Olympic Games where his Netherlands team fell to a narrow defeat at the hands of Germany.

Silver in London may not have been the fairy-tale ending that the ever-ambitious, ferociously competitive De Nooijer would have wished for, but it was a fourth medal in a staggering five Olympic Games, adding to the golds he won at Atlanta 1996 and Sydney 2000 as well as silver from Athens 2004.

They are far from being the only medals in De Nooijer’s collection. At 22 he became a world champion, scoring a ‘golden goal’ winner against Spain in the final at a sensational event on home soil in Utrecht. In 2007 he helped the Oranje win the European Championship and, between 1996 and 2006, played a starring role as the Dutch won six FIH Champions Trophy titles.

Even at club level, De Nooijer enjoyed extraordinary success. He won ten national titles, nine with his beloved HC Bloemendaal – including five in a row between 2006 and 2010 – and one with Harvestehude in Germany. He also won three European club titles, lifting the old European Cup in 2001 before twice winning the Euro Hockey League, the high profile competition that replaced the European Cup in 2007.

His first EHL title arrived in 2008-09, playing alongside Australia legend Jamie Dwyer in what was one of the most devastating attacking partnerships in the history of European club hockey. A second EHL victory arrived in 2012-13, with De Nooijer raising the Alain Danet trophy at the age of 37. It was his final top level season with Bloemendaal, although he did compete in the 2014 Hockey India League for Uttar Pradesh Wizards.

In part one of a two-part interview special, Netherlands superstar Teun de Nooijer – who alongside his job as a head-hunter for recruitment specialists McDermott + Bull is co-trainer for the Germany women’s team that is preparing for the upcoming FIH Hockey Pro League matches against Belgium later this month – reflects on some of the highlights of his wonderful career.

                                        

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