Occasionally, I still have to pinch myself to check whether it is really true”, laughs Roderick Weusthof, one of the forces who managed to convince Lidewij Welten to choose Kampong instead of the umpteenth national title. Den Bosch.
Weusthof played 153 official international matches for the Dutch national team. With 354 goals, he is the all-time top scorer in the Dutch big league. Normally you would say that he has experienced just about everything in hockey. But as soon as Lidewij Welten’s name is mentioned, De Knoest starts to beam as if it is suddenly 2007 again and he has pushed another penalty corner against the ropes.
‘Slightly over a year ago I took up the position of board member of top hockey. In a position like this you are aware when contracts of internationals and other interesting players who play for other clubs expire. So we also knew that about Lidewij. Together with Alexander de Vries [fellow committee member top hockey] I had a conversation with her. We clicked right away. After that it went pretty quickly. Sometimes you also need a bit of luck in life’, Weusthof laughs.
What we have created with the men in recent years, we also want to realize for the women.Board member top hockey Roderick Weusthof
The last time the women of Kampong qualified for the play-offs was in 2010. Weusthof does not want to look that far ahead, but he hopes that Welten’s arrival will accelerate the realization of the club’s ambitions. Kampong wants to gradually grow into a team that structurally plays in the top four, says the club icon.
‘Short-term thinking is not what we want. We certainly don’t want to make it to the play-offs next season. Our plan is to continue to grow as a club in the coming years. What we have created with the men in recent years, we also want to realize for the women. In addition to the player group, we therefore also invest in the facilities. Everything revolves around growing gradually to the top.’
In a sense, the arrival of the dribbling queen from Den Bosch seems to be a break with the past. In the past, talents such as Eva de Goede, Xan de Waard and Marijn Veen used the Kampong club as a springboard to a top club. Now a 229-time international and a three-time Olympic champion is going the opposite way. Weusthof hopes that with this transfer he can convince the current talents of the middle engine to stay.
“As a club we have to make sure that they don’t even have to think about whether they want to go to another club. The transfer of Lidewij helps a lot with that, of course. Moreover, her arrival also arouses the interest of other players. It’s just that simple. Hopefully we can announce a second new name soon. I don’t want to say who that is yet. It’s not over yet, but at least we’re in talks.’
Naturally, coach Fleur van de Kieft – 137-time international – is also happy with the arrival of the top player from Den Bosch. Some time ago, the two had a conversation. ‘Lidewij told me she would make a decision within two weeks. A week and a half later the contract was signed. That shows how much she wanted to come’, smiles Van de Kieft.
She points out the many young talents in her team. Luna Fokke and Carlijn Tukkers will play the World Cup under 21 in South Africa with the Dutch Juniors at the beginning of April. Vanessa Blockmans (19) has already played international matches for Belgium. Bieke Wijnmaalen is also seen as a talent and Eline Jansen, Noor van den Nieuwenhof, Tess Zweers and goalkeeper Babette Backers flowed through the A’s this season. The average age of the team would be 21.5 years. Olympic champion Malou Pheninckx (30) may have enough experience, but it is unknown how long she will continue to play hockey. Routiniers Michelle Simons and Carmen Wijsman never played in the Dutch national team.
“We have a fairly young team and we are looking for experience. I expect that Lidewij can raise the training level and improve and guide our young talents. Those who ultimately want to go to Orange will soon be able to learn from Lidewij what it takes and what top hockey entails. Her arrival is really fantastic for this team.’