Belgium, Netherlands resume hockey training after six weeks

World number one Belgium men’s national team trained at the Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein in Antwerp while following stringent social distancing norms.

Jeroen Hertzberger of Netherlands trains on Wednesday at the Wegener Stadium in Amsterdam.   -  Jeroen Hertzberger/ Instagram

 

Netherlands and Belgium were among the first national hockey teams to resume training on Wednesday after the governments in both the countries began a phased relaxation of coronavirus-forced lockdown restrictions.

World number one Belgium men’s national team trained at the Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein in Antwerp while following stringent social distancing norms.

Members of the team, who arrived and left the stadium separately, were asked to maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 metres during their 90-minute training session.

“It is very strict. Three players can train at a time and they shall continue for the next session. It was only possible to do passing drills while maintaining as much distance as we could,” Belgium captain Thomas Briels told Sportstar.

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“It feels good to be back after six weeks. It’s the longest gap I went without playing hockey since I was five years old. It’s the longest time for us as a team without seeing each other,” Briels added.

The World and European champion’s last competitive match was a 3-2 win against India in the FIH Pro League held at Bhubaneswar on February 8. On Monday, the Royal Belgian Hockey Association ended the domestic leagues with no promotion, relegation or winners for the 2019-20 season.

In Amsterdam, Dutch men’s and women’s teams returned to the turf at the Wegener Stadium, following temperature checks, while being instructed to wash hands before and after the practice. Players were divided into groups of six on each half while maintaining a distance of three metres between them.

Netherlands women’s team captain Eva da Goede said she was happy to see her team, which last played in the FIH Pro League against Argentina in February.

“It felt great to be back on the training pitch today. It felt really amazing to be back with the girls and able to train. It was really exciting and everyone was super happy to be back training and we loved it. Small steps, baby steps but these steps were definitely in a good direction, so we were very happy about that,” she told fih.ch .

The pandemic had forced the Royal Dutch Hockey Federation (KNHB) to postpone the home FIH Pro League matches against New Zealand, Australia and Great Britian. Premier club competitions such as the Hoofdklasse (Dutch Hockey League) alongside other domestic leagues for the 2019-20 season ended in April.

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