"The Rise of the Belgium Red Lions" - Nico De Kerpel
Updated: Nov 29, 2019
Belgium will head into the finals of the FIH Pro League this weekend, looking to maintain their top spot after the highs of an incredibly successful 12 months, winning the 2018 World Cup in Bubhaneswar, and rising to take their place as World Number One for the first time in history.
In an interview with Nico De Kerpel, #GRYPHONPack and Belgium National player, we gain an insight to the success they have achieved over the past year and their goals as a team moving forwards.
What do you put your successes over the past year down to?
"In 2004, Belgium didn't qualify for the Olympic Games and in 12 years, after obtaining better and better results, they finally reached the top by playing the Olympic Final. That final (which they actually lost to Argentina) was a very important moment, in my opinion." Nico De Kerpel
After those Olympics, a lot of young guys, including myself, got involved in the program. All the 'older' guys felt they had some unfinished business, so they kept on working every day. That might have been different, had they won that gold medal at the OG in Rio. Thanks to all this hard work, the 2018-2019 season has been incredible for Belgium. We have dominated a lot of World Class teams (beating Germany 8-0 at their home ground is a particular highlight), and are always fighting for that first place. It's a joy to play for the Belgium side at the moment.
Nico De Kerpel, #GRYPHONPack
Surely the team goal is now to win the Pro League?
We set out to win the Pro League, and I think we have proved to the world that we can beat anyone, so with this team, we always have to go for gold. If we can do that while integrating new players, and trying new things, then we can call this Pro League a success.
What would you say you bring to the group?
On the field I bring a lot of energy to the team. I love to work for my teammates and I will always do extra work to help them. My strength is my versatility. I can play as a defender, midfielder or striker so the coach can adapt my position depending on the rest of the squad or if there are injuries.
Off the field, I try to bring a good atmosphere. We have a lot of time together off the field, so for me, this is equally as important as what I can give to the team on the field.
How does you National Programme work in terms of training?
We are not centralised as a group. Our training schedule and location depends on whether we are preparing ourselves for a tournament or not. Before the World Cup, we trained Monday - Thursday. Two days in Brussels, 2 days in Antwerp. As we prepare for the European Cup, we will train 5 times a week in Antwerp.
Belgium sealed their last game before the finals with a 4-1 victory over the Olympic Champions Argentina, which should give them plenty of confidence heading into the Semi Finals this Friday against The Netherlands.