One of the biggest in the history of hockey. A goalkeeper in which they have looked and from which two generations of goalkeepers from all over the world have learned. And Pontelasguardas has had the great pleasure of interviewing him.
He debuted in the Hoansean national team at the age of 21, playing the first Olympic Games of the 3 that he played in his career.
His first 4 years in the national team, under the shadow of another of the greats: Ronald Jansen. But when it was his turn to take the reins of the team, he did not disappoint. And he continued until 263 international matches, until the World Cup in New Delhi in 2000, where he retired achieving a milestone: that a goalkeeper was chosen best player in a World Cup, something unprecedented until then.
Idol for many goalkeepers, among whom I am, has spoken with Pontelasguardas.
Guus Vogels: I was 10 years old when I started playing hockey at Hockey Vereniging Westland, a small club between Rotterdam and The Hague. Initially I plyed tennis, but one of my tennis friends invited me to join a hockey session. Within my family almost everybody plays goalie (some of a strange family thing…) so I started playing goalkeeper immediately. When I was 15-16 years old I moved to HGC which enabled me to play at a higher level (the highest) in the Netherlands under 18 years.
PLG: 14 years in the national team, 10 years in the starting line, How do you get in a selection as demanding as the Dutch?
GV: At the age of 13 I was selected for the regional team and from that team for the national team under 16. From there on under 18, under 21 and the age of 20 I was selected for the national team. That was also my first season in the first team of HGC. In my first season at HGC we became national champions and my high level of play was noticed. Initially as a third goalkeeper but already quickly moving to second and at the Atlanta Olympics my first “big” tournament. The first four years I learned a lot and needed to put in all the training hours to get to international higher level. After Sydney, where I wanted to be number one goalkeeper but was not, I became first goalkeeper. But not easy, because others were also willing to become number one. Focus and keeping your nerves were very important in that phase. Off course everybody has a opinion when you are in the spotlight, but being humble, dedicated and focused are than very important. It enabled me to be the number one goalkeeper until 2010.
PLG: 2 golds and 1 silver in Olympic Games, 2 bronzes in World Cups, gold and silver in European, an incredible prize list. Best moment of your sports career?
GV: This is a very difficult question. There have been so many great moments, on and of the pitch. Off course the success moments everybody remembers, and me too, but it are also the “small” moments when I was training together with my goalkeeper trainer on a Tuesday morning. This were the moments which were the bases to reach such a high level during all these tournaments. But If I have to choose the Athens Olympics, although we became second, it was one of my best performances.
PLG: Why two more years after Beijing?
GV: When you reach the age of 30 – 32 you know the end is coming… But I was still having so much fun
TO BE A GOALKEEPER
PLG: Why did you choose the position of goalkeeper?
GV: I never been found of running, but it something which runs in my family. I think the challenge of beijng a goalkeeper is that it simple: you are doing it right or not. One mistake and it’s a goal. There is no room for error.
PLG: What are the most important qualities in a goalkeeper?
GV: Having said the above, one of the most important qualities of a goalkeeper is to stay calm and focused. It can be that you have no activities and suddenly at the end of the game need to perform a (few) saves under pressure of a tight scoreboard. You also need to be cool if you make and error. The next ball counts….
PLG: What qualities do you think that made you be as special as a goalkeeper?
GV: Great reflexes, the ability to stay calm under pressure, good focus, fun in training, commitment & dedication.
PLG: What characterizes the Dutch goalkeepers against the goalkeepers of other countries?
GV: I think there no big difference between the goalkeepers, but there is a difference in training methods. Although the last 10 years, a lot of Dutch trainers, especially my former trainer Martijn Drijver, has be training and coaching other goalkeepers with success. (David Hart, Maddie Hinch)
GV: The speed of the game has changed a lot due the new rules and equipment (sticks and goalkeeping gear). Therefore there is a different challenge: 20 years ago the goalkeeping gear was not providing as much protection as today, but the speed was lower as well. Today the speed and hitting of the ball is much harder due to new sticks but the equipment protects better and enables different goalkeeping techniques and opportunities. Especially for young kids the new lighter equipment give s more fun.
PLG: What would you say to a child who starts in the position of goalkeeper?
GV: Have fun and enjoy!
PLG: Are you still playing?
GV: No, I have played center forward in the veterans (35+) but quit two years ago. I was not able to combine it with work and family. Although it still was a lot of fun once I was playing. At t his moment I try to play a few times a year with the former national team players.
PLG: Have you considered training goalies?
GV: Yes, but I this moment I focus on my work which provides me with new exiting challenges and opportunities. But perhaps in the future…
PLG: The best trainer throughout your sport career?
GV: Of course I had a lot, but if I need to choose: Martijn Drijver (goalie trainer) and Paul van As (coach at HGC)
PLG: In your opinion, who has been the best goalkeeper you has met?
GV: Today, it would be David Hart.
PLG: What did it mean to you that the best player in a World Cup was a goalie, who were
GV: It was a great achievement for me and recognition for the level of play. I hope it inspired others and especially kids but I don’t dare to say that.
PLG: What do you think of the current trend that some of the top coaches have chosen to alternate the goalkeepers in each quarter? Caldas is doing it in recent years, although in Bhubaneswar he chose Blaak in recent games.
GV: I would not prefer this. I don’t understand the purpose of this way of interchange. It could be that the coaches can’t decide which goalkeeper is better. Or a coach would like to improve both
Thanks to Javier Moret for his invaluable help in conducting this interview.
Header image: KNHB-Frank-Uijlenbroek
Image 1: Door Noor Tonkens in ED.nl
Image 2: Jamie Squire para Getty Images AsiaPac
Image 3: Website HGC
Image 4: Kevin Hagens en destentor.nl