Playing hockey with Amalia and Máxima: ‘Didn’t have to explain what convex lace is’

Twenty-five children from Rotterdam played hockey last week with Queen Máxima, Crown Princess Amalia and her sister Ariane, during the festive activities in the port city on King’s Day. ‘I didn’t have to explain to Máxima what convex lace is.’

Crown Princess Amalia holding a hockey stick. Her sister Ariane who skips a ball with children. And to top it all off, Queen Máxima smoothly pulls the ball back and forth with a stick. It all happened last Thursday on the Blaak in Rotterdam, where the procession of the royal family passed by during the festive route through the port city.

Paul Veldhuijzen, the founder of the multicultural hockey club Feijenoord and working as a management consultant at the Hockey Foundation, is the one with whom this story begins. In the run-up to King’s Day, he sees an appeal on social media from Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam. He calls on residents of the city to come up with creative ideas for the start of the royal family’s route, on Afrikaanderplein. Coincidentally, the place where the roots of hockey club Feijenoord lie. What started at that location in 2010 with a few sticks in a kliko, has now grown into an adult hockey club of almost 450 members at Sportpark Olympia, on the Buitendijk in Rotterdam.

Feijenoord provided the clinic together with Delfshaven

Shortly after seeing that call, Veldhuijzen sent an email to Mayor Aboutaleb. He plans to host a hockey clinic. He doesn’t get an answer. Only much later Veldhuijzen receives an email from the municipality, stating that the program has now been mapped out. Without a hockey clinic.

In fact, the plan has already been definitively shot down when Veldhuijzen is approached shortly afterwards by another department of the municipality. They want hockey club Feijenoord to give a clinic on the Blaak, another part of the route. Together with hockey club Delfshaven, a club with about the same DNA as Feijenoord.

‘We use hockey as a means to connect people. Including, for example, higher incomes with lower incomes. Having children from the Afrikaanderwijk play hockey with members of the royal family is the ultimate example of this. The contrast will probably never be greater again’, says the man who introduced a whole new target group to hockey with the founding of Feijenoord.

It was the children themselves who had to try to entice the members of the royal family to grab a hockey stick. And of course skipping a ball with them. Paul Veldhuijzen

Feijenoord moves into Rotterdam neighbourhoods to give students training in the vicinity of their school immediately after school. The children who play hockey on a field on Afrikaanderplein are called the ‘Afri team’. Feijenoord put these fourteen children aged seven to eleven forward for the special occasion on King’s Day. Delfshaven took care of the eleven other younger hockey players. On the Blaak they were literally given part of a lane at their disposal, to show their ball skills to the royal family.

Veldhuijzen: ‘With 25 children, that space was too small to play a game. That’s why we put down a few bars and started overplaying. We had agreed that the six adult supervisors would remain in the background. It was the children themselves who had to try to entice the members of the royal family to grab a hockey stick. And of course to skip a ball with them.’

Feijenoord founder Paul Veldhuijzen. Photo: Willem Vernes

Queen Máxima with a stick in her hands

King Willem-Alexander was, of course, the biggest hotshot to be seduced. He chose to stay off the field, but did have a chat with the supervisors of Delfshaven. Amalia and Ariane did pick up the stick that was handed to them. In high heels, they smoothly passed the ball to the children. It was clear to see that the two princesses learned to play hockey at HGC. Subsequently, Queen Máxima was also persuaded to take a stick in her hand.

Veldhuijzen: ‘I expected Amalia and Ariane to be able to hit a ball. But the same turned out to be true for Máxima. Perhaps she practiced with her children in the garden of the palace when they were little. I didn’t have to explain to her what convex lace is. Or left hand above and right hand below. No, she grabbed a stick and immediately started typing. Like she does it every day. I thought that was really beautiful to see.’


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