Different surfaces, different formats key to spread hockey in the world, says Bovelander

Bovelander spoke to Sportstar about a wide range of topics including the need to develop an alternate surface to play on if hockey wanted to become truly global and get more countries into the fold.

Floris Jan Bovelander at the Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday.

Floris Jan Bovelander is a legend. The 51-year-old Dutchman, synonymous with immaculate drag-flicks and thundering hits, still continues to draw crowds when talking about hockey and keeps travelling across the world doing so. With a World Cup and Olympic gold against his name and 216 goals in 241 matches, his fierce shots earned him the moniker 'Boem Boem Bovelander'.

Arriving here for a brief visit during the ongoing Hockey World League Finals on Sunday, Bovelander spoke to Sportstar about a wide range of topics including the need to develop an alternate surface to play on if hockey wanted to become truly global and get more countries into the fold.

Floris Jan Bovelander scored 216 goals in 241 matches for the Netherlands. ( File Photo from 1994)   -  Vinu John

Excerpts:

How would you rate the current crop of drag-flickers and their penalty corner executions now?

I think all teams have good drag-flickers now. But there is room for improvements and inventions and new tactics, including in short corners. I still don't know why they (the players) have to refuse the hit, because they can hit it very straight, the pitch is hard and good. I still think the hit can be very effective even though the drag-flick is now almost as hard as it used to be when we hit the ball.

When it is high the goalkeepers are confident but when you flick low it is very difficult to stop. But the running also has become very good so there is just a small angle to score. It is always nice to have 1-2 new tricks. Maybe I will come up with something!

As a PC expert, how do you see the experimental rule of awarding more points for a field goal?

It's something we are also working on in Europe during our EHL. I think you can do it as long as the attacking team gets the advantage. If you are two goals up you can easily give a PC because it won't be a big deal. The defending team also has an advantage because you can just kick the ball and give PC, it's just one point and you won't lose even if the opposition scores. On the other hand it is also in the mind.

When you are 3-4 goals down you can still feel you can win and that brings excitement. In the Euro Cup recently, my team HC Bloemendaal won 8-0 but it was actually just 4-0. We have to think about how to keep hockey attractive, not only for those who understand hockey but also for the common man.

When you talk of innovation and making hockey attractive, what do you make of Hockey 5s and mixed team events?

I think the excitement of Fives is good, the thrills and speed is really good and if you have a shorter game with lesser players and smaller pitch it should be exciting.

As for the other question, the event is ok if you mix but men and women playing together, it's difficult. We are just not built the same. So if it's competing in a physical game, it's not always fair.

READ: Hockey India to trial mixed team hockey at National 5s

“I think new formats are really good. One big problem is that modern hockey is played on artificial pitch and I am not sure how we can do it but if you want to have hockey all over the world, having no artificial pitch would have been better. Maybe we need to try and look at grass or beach hockey, where everyone can play. But it will be a totally different format and we might have to think about that as well.”

But as a concept what future do you see for the newer formats?

I was part of the group that set up rules for beach hockey back in Holland 10 years ago, so I am really into developing new forms and formats of hockey. I think new formats are really good. One big problem is that modern hockey is played on artificial pitch and I am not sure how we can do it but if you want to have hockey all over the world, having no artificial pitch would have been better.

Maybe we need to try and look at grass or beach hockey, where everyone can play. But it will be a totally different format and we might have to think about that as well. It's a totally different game. You cannot simply go back to grass again, you have to make a totally new kind of game like beach or ice hockey. I know the FIH is also working on all these things so we will have to wait and see.

The long-standing myth in the sub-continent is that artificial turfs were introduced by Europeans to counter Asian skills. Your talking of going back to grass would come as a surprise here.

That's not true. The fact is, artificial pitch was first used at the Montreal Olympics because they just don't have grass fields there because of weather conditions. It was definitely taken up by the Europeans because it suited us also, specially in the winters with the frost and snow. But we had to adjust to it as much as anyone else. It's just that the Europeans accepted and adapted to the change quickly whereas India and other nations did not.

READ: What the Asia Cup means for Indian hockey

India has now taken it up in a big way in the last 10 years and you can see them improving in the world because you need to start early, maybe 12-14 years, on turf if you Bloemendaalhave to get the tactics and the techniques right at the top level.

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