Holland’s Teun de Nooijer is one of the greatest field hockey players in the world. With the Dutch national side, he was twice a member of the Olympic gold medal winning team in 1996 and 2000 and was in the squads in 2004 and 2012 which won silver medals.
He was recently named a Laureus Ambassador. In this exclusive Q and A, he looks back on his remarkable career and what he hopes to achieve spreading the Laureus Sport for Good message.
What was the highlight of your career?
There were a lot of highlights, but maybe the World Cup in Holland in 1998, where we won the gold medal, was a great tournament to play for the home crowd. Also, of course, I should mention the five Olympics where I participated. Especially Atlanta, the first one, where we won the first gold medal for the men’s Dutch hockey team.
What did you think of the World Cup as a spectator not a player?
It was a bit strange because it was the first tournament since 1994 where I didn’t wear the Dutch jersey, but I really enjoyed it. Two years ago I played my last game for the Dutch team, the Olympic final in London for Holland, so this is long enough to be able to really enjoy watching all the games.
Who do you think is the No.1 hockey player in the world at the moment?
That’s a difficult one. Last year Tobias Hauke, the midfielder from Germany, was named best player in the world. I think he has been a great player for the Germans for a long time. But for me personally there is not really a best player in the world at the moment, everybody has his own qualities. It’s difficult to pick one, but I definitely enjoy Tobias Hauke.
Are you missing hockey?
Of course I will always miss playing hockey, because I have had so much fun playing it. I have been all over the world; saw a lot of places, a lot of big tournaments, but also the training sessions, the fun in the locker room. That kind of stuff you miss of course.
What kind of activities are you involved in?
At the moment I have my own company, the Teun de Nooijer Academy, I’m pretty busy with that. Also I am a team manager at AZ Alkmaar, I’m into soccer also. That’s busy enough so to say.
Would you become a coach?
Actually at the moment I am a bit of a hockey coach, because my three daughters play hockey and last year the two oldest were in the same team which I coached. That’s really fun to do. It was an under 14s team. I really like being a coach, so maybe in the future I will coach the men.
Where do you see the future of hockey – is it a growing sport?
I think in Holland it will grow, because it really grew after the World Cup in Utrecht some years ago. And now it will grow further following the World Cup in The Hague. What I really hope is that it will grow worldwide and I think Holland will have to have a leading role in that to set the example.
What does it mean to you being a Laureus Ambassador?
I really enjoy doing that, because I believe in the power and strength of sports and it can bring people together, it can bring hope and joy. If you look at all those kids we can help there is a big role for us to play in that. All those big athletes from the past and also from the future can set the example.
What are your goals for your work with Laureus?
Our common goal is to improve the lives of young people and kids. I completely agree with this and will do my best to play my part in this.
If you talk about my role, I have been to India to play in the Hockey India League. It’s such a big country and I think Laureus can do a lot there. As a hockey player, as the second biggest sport in India, I can have a big role there; to help the little kids there with their lives. Though we should not forget that there are plenty of situations in the Netherlands that need our attention. This is why we also support sport projects in the Netherlands. We should keep in mind that not everyone in this country has a wealthy and steady life.
You have a very strong Laureus team in Netherlands – Esther Vergeer, Edwin van der Sar, Peter van Hoogenband, Yvonne van Gennip etc., are you looking forward to working with them?
Of course! They are really big names in sports, I think I watched all of them while they performed and I’m really looking forward to working with them.