05.05.2015, Brussels: As the EHF President is poised to invite two new inductees, it was our immense pleasure to catch up with our Hall of Famers to catch up on what they have been doing in and out of hockey over the past 18 months…
First up! Santi Freixa –
18 months after your induction into the Hall of Fame, tell us what you are doing now …
Santi “I’m still very much involved in hockey, playing with Amsterdam (AHBC) and enjoying my hockey. The league in The Netherlands is so strong and I still love competing with the best players in the world.”
But hockey on the field is not your only link ..
Santi “Of course not, I am lucky to now be part of the Dutch Women’s Team coaching staff, we are looking forward to the FIH Hockey World League Round 3 in Antwerp and then the Euro Nations Championships in London and August. It is a privilege to work with such talented athletes, but a brilliant challenge at the same time. Yes, the team are one of the best in the world but we have to continue to improve, to innovate and work hard so we don’t get caught by the teams below and around us in the world rankings.”
You also choose to do some hockey charity work, how does that combine with your other activities?
Santi: ‘Stick for India*’ is the charity and it gives a chance for youngsters to combine their hockey with food, accommodation and education. I feel that our sport has fantastic roots, based in places like India and Pakistan, but the levels of poverty can be really high for people in these places so I feel that the sport I love should try and give something back. I have benefitted from it and so it is only fair that I try to do something for others. I also think that one of the biggest challenges for our sport is to expand our global identity and a strong traditional base will help that. These young players can then aspire to be the next hockey global superstar. It creates a positive circle.”
For you personally, an amazing career has been affected by your injuries, many people have said at different times ‘that is it’ for Santi, how do you get through those times?
Santi: “There is never a problem with the physical re-habilitation because as top hockey players we are surrounded by some amazing people to treat injuries, sometimes the problem is more mental. But for me I think the reason I can come back is my love for the game. When I coach young players, all I want them to leave me with is a smile. The same applies to me, I love my sport, I know that when I play I will give 100% and sometimes that means ‘things’ (muscles and bones) get broken, but I accept that is just part of the game. So you accept that moment and as long as the passion remains then you just to the work to get back on the field and be smiling with your team again.”
Finally, the Hall of Fame, what did it mean to you and what will it mean to the new Inductees.
Santi “For me it was an amazing honour but also a big surprise, I was still quite young and there are so many great players who also deserve the same award. I love being in the Hall of Fame with Teun and Natascha and I really look forward to seeing who gets in next. As our sport moves forward our place in the Olympics is always under threat from other new sports and we have to continue to have role models and also innovate our game. I want to help that process however I can, the passion never goes away, I have loved playing in Euro Championships, World Cups and Olympic Games, if my place in the Hall of Fame can help in some way to promote the sport then it’s great for everyone.”
Santi visits the homes of the students who attend the “Stick for India” Academy
Photograph: Santi is challenged by the Stick for India girls!