For the first time after winning the national title in May, Alexander Hendrickx (30) was seen again in the Pinoké shirt last Saturday. The Belgian penalty corner specialist has recovered from a persistent inflammation in his left knee. He scored his first minutes of this season and an anniversary goal in the home game against Little Switzerland (4-2 win).
Welcome back to the Tulp Hoofdklasse.
Alexander Hendrick: ‘Yes, it felt good to be back on the field. All those sessions in the gym were slowly getting to me, haha. I ended up playing one half against KZ. I could have played more, but at this stage I better take it easy and listen carefully to the specialists. It is of course an important year towards the Paris Games. I’m not going to rush anything.’
You suffered from inflammation in your left knee for a long time. That sounds like an injury that will also test your patience.
‘Beats. It was a long, difficult recovery. You couldn’t put time on recovery. Each time you had to wait and see how your knee reacts to the efforts you make. Sometimes it went well, other times I was thrown back for a moment. The injury occurred during the last training before the European Championships last August. In Mönchengladbach I played a lot with anti-inflammatories. That wasn’t a great tournament for me because of that.’
We saw you take penalty corners against KZ again. Are you no longer afraid of putting full strain on your joint?
‘Taking the corner was the most painful movement with that knee. You have to get in full before you drag the ball. I have slowly built that up again over the past week. First last Wednesday when I joined the Belgian training group again, then also with Pinoké. I now dare to carry full tow again, so that’s going well.’
Your striking penalty in the 24th minute was your hundredth goal for Pinoké in the Tulp Hoofdklasse. Does something like that still matter to someone who is already a European, world and Olympic champion?
‘Haha, it’s a nice number anyway. I had no idea this anniversary was coming, you guys pointed it out to me. I’m never really concerned with these personal statistics. These are individual achievements that only have value after the team performance. Recently I especially enjoyed seeing that Pinoké does not necessarily need me to score goals.’
That’s where you say something. During your absence, Pinoké did not lose a single point in the Tulp Hoofdklasse: seven games, seven victories. Did that surprise you?
‘Not really. We have made good reinforcements and the group has hardly changed compared to last season. So we are already quite attuned to each other. And then we haven’t been able to play a single match with the entire group this season. We will miss Miles [Bukkens] for a while and Morris [de Vilder] and Niek [Merkus] are also not fit yet. It’s great that it’s already running so well. Although there is still plenty of room for improvement.’
Now that you’re back, a super busy period awaits.
‘Yes, these will be intensive weeks. At the beginning of November, Pinoké will play in the Premier League against Bloemendaal and Kampong within three days, which will be two great showdowns. With Belgium we are working towards the first peak moment of this season: the qualifying matches in January for the Paris Games. I am happy that I can train normally again with the national team. I’ve had my moments with the physios now, haha. All those endless cardio and stability exercises… The only advantage is that I am now much fitter than before the European Championships.’