Hockey heroes on students’ turf

The Dutch men’s hockey team is busy preparing for the Olympic Games. In six weeks, the players will go for gold in Rio de Janeiro. But first, coach Max Caldas’ team must play two practice matches against New Zealand. The hockey players will meet on the field of student club GCHC this week.

Everyone is busy these days at the GCHC complex. They are doing everything they can to make sure that the 23rd and 24th of June will be truly spectacular. They are expecting approximately 2,000 visitors on each match day, which means that a lot still needs doing. There will be massive stands, a 16-metre long bar and a genuine grounds. And the clubhouse needs to be spic and span, too.

But Anouk Tuininga, a member of the committee tasked with organising everything for the battle between the Netherlands and New Zealand, is not worried. ‘An international match on our student club’s field – how cool is that?’ she says with a laugh. ‘Two months ago, we were approached by the league out of the blue with the question of whether we would like to organise this. After a quick check to see if it was financially feasible, we wholeheartedly said yes.’

Surprised and honoured

In 2012, GCHC was also approached by the league about hosting a big match on their home turf. ‘That was back when we had just installed a new water-based field’, says the medical student. But after the club consented it was still four years before the opportunity actually arose. ‘We were surprised and honoured, especially since it’s in preparation for a tournament as large as the Olympics. And to have New Zealand as an opponent is just amazing!’

This is the first time since 2007 that an international hockey match will be held in the north of the country – back then, it took place in Drachten. The organisation went to their Frisian neighbours for advice: ‘Our largest event every year is the Martini Hockey tournament. That draws 500 to 600 people. But the hockey league thought there would be 3,000 people. We’re expecting about 2,000 people each night.’

‘In Drachten, they organised clinics around the international match. We’ll be doing that as well’, continues Tuininga. ‘A former member will help with that – 60 children have signed up for Thursday, and 80 for Friday. Most of them are children from around here, but some of them are from Almelo or Utrecht.’

Hockey kids

Some children are appearing in the line-up or serving as ball boys or girls. ‘For Friday’s line-up, we’ve got our own hockey kids coming in from the Reitdiep neighbourhood. A prominent member asked us several years ago if we could provide workshops for young children from that area. We don’t have a youth league, but it seemed like fun. And who knows, maybe we’ll see them again in 10 or 15 years.’

‘The only thing we can’t control is the weather. There’s a new forecast every day.’ Tuininga has all the time in the world next week; her thesis does not need to finished until September. ‘Some of us do have exams. I hope they pass. That’s what I’m worried about most – the matches will be fine!’

Tickets are available online.