Hendrickx: “Absurd that we don’t have any Dutch internationals”
He was the biggest unlucky player during the last World Cup. Alexander Hendrickx had to withdraw from Belgium’s last group match due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament. For a week, the frank defender has been back on the field at his club, Pinoké, where he is more than welcome.
“And he’s back, with number 16… Alexanderrr Hennndrickx!” echoed across the Pinoké field on Sunday afternoon around four o’clock. Hendrickx had just made the decisive goal against the resurgent HGC. His 2-0, two minutes before time, earned Pinoké their first victory of 2023. They were hungry for a win, which was absent the week before during Hendrickx’s comeback against Klein Zwitserland (2-2).
The spotlight was back on the Antwerp corner expert on Sunday. Immediately after the final whistle, he was led to Viaplay’s cameras. With sweat still on his forehead, he analyzed his goal with Teun de Nooijer. The walk to the clubhouse earned him pats on the back and high fives, which the defender received with a smile.
Remembrance of a scar “Such a home game, it’s been a long time for me,” he said contentedly. “I feel good,” while his gaze immediately went to his knee. His contentious body part that prematurely ended his World Cup. There is still tape around it. A reminder of a recent scar. “That tape has the shape of a cruciate ligament,” Hendrickx said. “It’s purely extra protection in case someone bumps into it. Last week it was wrapped thicker, so that’s also going well. They advised me to walk with this for the first month. Well, then I’ll do that.”
He no longer feels any pain in his knee, which kept him sidelined for almost two months. “In training, I’m a bit more cautious in one-on-one duels. Sometimes, clumsy things happen there. Last week, a young guy in the Belgian team ran full on me during training. You get a little scared, but it also gives you confidence that you don’t feel any pain.” With a grin, he added, “In the game, I take all the risks. I don’t even think about it.”
His thoughts flashed back to India. Rourkela, to be exact. In a raging hockey temple, 20,000 people held their breath as Hendrickx was knocked over by an interceptor during Belgium’s first corner of the group stage match against Japan. “Then the lights went out,” said the 2021 Olympic champion. “I remember wanting to stand up, and it didn’t work. That’s when I knew it was over. And it took a long time before it was officially announced.”
Smoke screen Hendrickx explains how a smoke screen was created around his injury. “The next day, I couldn’t even walk. But the outside world couldn’t know that it was over for me. The idea behind it was that opponents would analyze my corner and not Tom Boon’s. In retrospect, that wasn’t very pleasant for me. The Belgian press also speculated about my situation. They saw me doing exercises with the physio, and then the news was that I was back in training. I received congratulations because apparently it wasn’t that bad. I would have preferred to give clarity right away.
The criticism is not limited to the absence of Pinoké players in the Dutch national team. Hendrickx also believes that the Dutch league is becoming increasingly international. ‘If you look at the teams, a lot of foreign players are playing here. That’s fine, but you can’t compare the level of hockey in the Netherlands with the level in Belgium. I think that if there are two equally good players, you should choose the Dutch one. But I don’t think that’s always happening now.’
Hendrickx’s focus is now fully on Pinoké. He hopes to help his team qualify for the play-offs in the Tulp Hoofdklasse Dames. ‘We are getting better and better, and I feel good physically. I want to play as many matches as possible and help Pinoké achieve their goals. It’s important that we keep winning, and we have to take it game by game. But I’m confident that we can reach the play-offs.’
Hendrickx’s return to the field is a welcome sight for Pinoké and Belgian hockey fans alike. He is a talented and passionate player who always gives his all on the field. Whether he’s scoring goals or defending the goal, Hendrickx is a force to be reckoned with.