Niklas Wellen: ‘Always wanted to play in the Netherlands’

Despite the corona pandemic, Niklas Wellen is feeling good about himself. The 138-time German international is fit and having a good time at Pinoké. With the switch to the ambitious club from the Amsterdamse Bos last summer, a long-cherished wish came true for 26-year-old Wellen. “I’ve always wanted to play in the Netherlands.”

‘In the summer of 2018 I had the plan to do my master’s degree abroad,’ says Wellen. At the time, the forward played for Crefelder HTC, where he had played in the first team since he was sixteen. However, the team fell apart that summer. Players left or quit. I was captain at the time and decided to stay to keep the team together as much as possible. After the team had recovered, I announced that I would leave in February last year. ‘

Finally, I decided to go to Pinoké. That was the most exciting choice for me.

Niklas Wellen could not complain about interest in the Netherlands

For Wellen, it was clear where he wanted to play in the Tulp big league. ‘I think I got a call from every club from the Netherlands. I wanted to live in Amsterdam, so the Amsterdam clubs and clubs in the area were eligible for me. Finally, I decided to go to Pinoké. That was the most exciting choice for me. From the first day, I was well received and I felt welcome, ‘Wellen explains.

That excitement lies in Pinoké’s ambition. The club has the strongest men’s selection in club history this season and therefore wants to compete for the playoff spots.

Niklas Wellen on the ball for Pinoké on the skin by Bloemendaal player Daan Dullemeijer. Photo: Koen Suyk

High expectations

In addition to Wellen, the Belgian international Sébastien Dockier was also recruited last summer. Added to the young talent, the routiners who have been playing in the first team for years and the other foreign toppers such as the Belgian penalty corner cannon Alexander Hendrickx and the Argentines Agustin Mazzilli and Martin Ferreiro, the expectations at Pinoké are high.

‘It is a good group with talent and quality, in short, with a lot of potential. With the Belgian and Argentinian internationals we have a team that fits well together, ‘says Wellen.

Different role than at Crefelder

One of the roles of Wellen and the other foreigners is to speed up the development process of the young players at Pinoké. ‘Previously I had the role of leader at Crefelder. Relatively speaking, that team had less quality than Pinoké. At Crefelder it depended on one or two top players. That is not the case with Pinoké. The role I play Pinoké is therefore different from Crefelder. When I talk to the young players, they accept what I say and they take everything from me. ‘

In addition, Wellen tries to put a German accent in Pinoké’s playing. ‘If an attack starts from the right in the Netherlands, the ball also stays on the right, while in Germany it sometimes changes sides. There is also an eye for the other side of the field. In this the German game is more structured than the Dutch. But, the Dutch game of give-and-go suits me ‘, Wellen explains.

Niklas Wellen (Pinoké) with Gijs Campbell (Den Bosch) and Sebastien Dockier (Pinoké) during the first game of the season in the Tulp Dutch Major League. Photo: Koen Suyk

Pinoké in fifth place

After the previous season ended prematurely, the new season was scheduled to start in September. However, the competition was closed after the seventh day of play, in early October. At that moment Pinoké occupied fifth place and the team was level with number four HGC in points.

“Although the first seven games were okay, it didn’t really work out what was in it,” Wellen admits. ‘We have won important games against competitors such as HGC and Oranje-Rood, but we also lost unluckily to Den Bosch in the first game of the season. We could have won that game, given the odds and the amount of corners we had. But, it was also the first game of the season with a new team that had to get used to each other. That we lost to Bloemendaal and Kampong, that can happen. These two teams are in my opinion the top favourites for the title. ‘

Satisfied with your own performance

Wellen was satisfied with his own game in those first seven games. The German started at Pinoké as a striker, then dropped a line and then ended in the attack again. ‘And that’s where I feel most comfortable. All in all, I am satisfied with my own performance. I have decided to get more into scoring position. I have scored two goals in seven games. This is partly due to the fact that I played in midfield, but I hope to create more opportunities and score goals in the second half of the season. ‘

Niklas Wellen in action for Pinoké in the derby with Amsterdam in the Wagener Stadium. Photo: Koen Suyk

“We are on the right track,” Wellen says about Pinoké. ‘We will soon meet Little Switzerland, Almere and Tilburg. We have to take points against that and then we play against our direct competitors. Those duels will determine who will participate in the play-offs. ‘

Continue training

The competition had stopped since the beginning of October, Wellen trained a lot in recent months. At Pinoké in groups of four and recently with the entire team again. In addition, Wellen went to work a number of times with the German national team in Mannheim, where they trained in a blow hall.

“I was able to train throughout the entire period and I was happy with that,” says Wellen. ‘In Germany the players could not train at their club (because of the strict lockdown, ed.). I had the advantage that that was possible with Pinoké. It was different in groups of four, less fun without contact, but you have to get the best out of the situation. After we had all been tested, I was able to train fully with the national team. At the moment I definitely feel good and fit. ‘

Niklas Wellen in the shirt of Germany.

Ambitions with Germany

Wellen has ambitions not only at club level, but also at an international level. For Germany, besides duels in the Pro League, the European Championship and the Olympic Games are also on the program.

“I think Germany is in good shape at the moment,” says Wellen. ‘We trained hard in Mannheim and developed ourselves. We only lacked competitions. In March when we play for the Pro League against the Netherlands, we know where we stand. I look forward.’

Not a top favorite

Wellen: ‘We are not the top favourite, but we will certainly compete for the medals. The quality and talent is there. Australia and Belgium are the big favourites for Olympic gold. If we have a good day and can deliver a top performance, we will be hard to beat. ‘

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