In the first of the Favourite World Cup Memory, Hockey India spoke to the former Belgium Captain about the team’s successful outing in India
“The atmosphere in India for hockey is something every hockey
player should experience,” says World Cup-winning Captain Thomas Briels
the clock ticks closer to the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s Hockey World Cup Bhubaneswar-Rourkela 2023, with less than 100 days to go, Hockey India launches Favourite World Cup Memory which will bring hockey fans unknown facts, fun anecdotes and special moments for hockey stars around the world who have achieved the pinnacle at this prestigious event in the previous years.
We kick-start the series with Thomas Briels, Captain of the Belgium team who lifted the coveted World Cup in 2018 at the iconic Kalinga Hockey Stadium.
The Belgians defeated the Netherlands in the nail-biting Final that had the packed stadium on their toes as the contest went into a penalty shootout.
Taking a short walk down memory lane, Briels, one of the most decorated Captains for Belgium, got candid about his trip in 2018. “Just being there like all the hype around the World Cup, just coming in to Bhubaneswar and seeing all the journalists, and you see all the drawings on the walls. You see it really lifts us, and India is the only country where hockey lives so much. Because we come from Europe, where hockey isn’t that big. To come there and feel the vibe and the atmosphere and see all the fans going crazy, is just something that I wish every hockey player can experience once in their lives.”
Briels, who has represented his nation in 359 games, has seen the Belgian national team transition into world beaters. From being ranked 13th in the world, to becoming World Cup winners and Gold medallists at the Tokyo Olympics, Briels has seen it all. In fact, the Gold medal match at the Summer Games, was Briels’ last appearance for the Belgian national team.
When asked about his fondest moment from the World Cups he has been part of, pat comes the reply from Briels, which transports us to the moment of the trophy presentation at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar.
“I was looking at the team and I looked at everyone, and I could see the sparkle in everyone’s eyes while they were looking at me. They could not believe what we had managed to achieve. All the hardwork we put in, finally we won the coveted World Cup. You could see it in their eyes that the feeling still hadn’t sunk in and there was so much joy. The moment I saw the happy faces and the sparkling eyes, that instantly became my favourite moment,” Briels narrated with a big smile on his face.
“I think of that moment, I get a bit emotional as well when I remember it. For a hockey player, it’s crazy to have experienced that. It was like a madhouse.”
Briels and co were greeted by thousands of fans in Brussels when they returned with the World Cup trophy, three years before they’d go on to win the Gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Briels, who scored two goals in the 2018 FIH Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneshwar, said that the current crop of the Belgian players should just embrace the atmosphere in Odisha at the FIH Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup Bhubaneswar-Rourkela 2023.
“I would say to the players, enjoy every moment playing in India, in front of such great fans. It’s an atmosphere you will cherish for the rest of your life. I think the players should embrace it and enjoy it. It can be last your World Cup, or your last time in India, so enjoy every moment,” he signed off.