Netherlands: Champion with a black border: 'This one is for Pep'

The gentlemen of Wateringse Veld recently became champions in the Fourth Division. Special, but not unique. The fact that this team recently lost a teammate, on the other hand, gives their championship a very special meaning. “Pep is still part of our team.”

‘After a match won on April 2, we had a td at the club’, captain Douwe de Haan looks back. ‘That was a lot of fun, eating together, drinking and dancing to the music of a DJ. Normally we cycle home together, but this time Pepijn had left a little earlier. We heard some sirens in the distance, but we didn’t think of Pep for a second.’

‘The next morning at 7:58 am I received a text from our coach. It said that Pep had been hit by a tram and died. I immediately bolted upright in my bed and yelled at my mother. I actually couldn’t believe it.’

‘That evening we immediately met in the clubhouse. Not only our team was there, but many more members of the club. He really was a kid of the club; almost everyone knew him. One was barely aware that he had crashed, the other was in total shock. And most of all there were a lot of tears. Pepijn was only nineteen years old. His sudden disappearance felt so unreal and unbelievable.’

Wateringse Veld reflects on the loss of men’s 1 team member Pepijn. Photo: Wateringse Veld

Hockey became an afterthought

Trainer-coach Philippe van der Pal still remembers the first days after the accident very well. ‘It was very nice how the association immediately went into regulation mode and facilitated that everyone who needed it could come together. A condolence table was set up in the clubhouse and on Tuesday evening, two days after it happened, we walked with about a hundred members to the scene of the accident and laid flowers there.’

Hockey was an afterthought for the men of Wateringse Veld in those days. De Haan: ‘We visited each other a lot. We talked and there was room for emotions. And we thought about how we could keep Pepijn part of our team, even though he was gone. The fact that we literally and figuratively held each other in those days has given us enormous support.’

“Because of Easter we had no game that Sunday. There was already a team trip to Prague. We let them continue. Then we resumed training. That was also nice. Just a distraction and change your mind.’

The next match, at home against Alkemade, was of course emotionally charged. Van der Pal: ‘Hundreds of spectators lined the line. A framed shirt from Pepijn was included in the line-up. We held a minute’s silence before the game. And in the ninth minute everyone applauded; Pep had jersey number nine. We also involved his biggest fan, a boy from U12, in the game.’

Pepijn’s biggest fan got a part in the commemoration match. Photo: Wateringse Veld


In the meantime, Wateringse Veld was proudly at the top of the Fourth Division B. De Haan: ‘Our goal was already to finish as leader, but from then on we were even more motivated to win the championship. I also noticed that the focus within the group increased. We kept to agreements, such as being on time, much better. In the field we had a less big mouth towards the referees, we gave each other more and we cheered louder when a goal was scored.’

On May 21, six weeks after the fatal accident, Wateringse Veld was already able to secure the championship. De Haan: ‘As every week, we brought a shirt from Pep . And even though we actually had four match points with four games to go, we wanted to finish it immediately. We played away against Mijdrecht, but the whole club came along to cheer us on. The match did not go as planned. We came down 3-1. But losing or drawing just wasn’t an option. We’ve never gone that deep before, but we fought our way back to 3-3 and scored the winning goal in the dying seconds . Couldn’t be more beautiful.’

Van der Pal: ‘The discharge was enormous. We had already had a good year, reaching the fourth round of the Silver Cup. And the fact that men’s 1 became champion had never been achieved before in the club’s twentieth anniversary. But the loss of Pepijn and the impact it had on the team made this title extra intense.’ De Haan: ‘This one is for Pep , we immediately said. We were very happy and emotional at the same time.’

Joy for the championship with a black border for the men of Wateringse Veld. Photo: Wateringse Veld

What has changed

Losing Pepijn has changed something in the team, says coach Van der Pal. “The players have grown very close to each other. That connection was already there, but has become even stronger in the past two months. They give each other space and are there for each other. Off the field, but also on it. Of course we would have preferred to have Pepijn still in our midst. We miss him as a player with the largest lung capacity in the club, but especially as a person. Soon we will close the season. The framed shirt will be placed in the clubhouse. But above all, he is forever in our hearts.’

by Hockey.nl

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