PFH Exclusive Interview with Mijntje Donners x9|
February 24, 2004
Hernán Alvarez Macías
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Mijntje Donners seems to be a normal person. Nothing in her aspect nor her companies illustrate she is an outstanding sportswoman. The Dutch woman doesn't seem to be a remarkable athlete as she is. Donners was selected the best player of the world in 2003 by the FIH. Many successful sportsmen don't keep being the same people with the same humble personality, but that's not the case of the woman who wears the number 10 in The Netherlands woman national squad.
Donners helped her team win the 4 Nations tournament in Cordoba, Argentina.
She showed everybody there why she is considered the best of these days with incredible goals and plays. In the match with Germany she made three of the four orange goals.
She seems to be very gentle in normal life, but when she gets in the field she focus on the clash. Mijntje demonstrates a strong personality inside the pitch fighting for every single ball, arguing with the referee in a doubtful call and showing that killing instinct typical of tremendous hockey players.
PFH chatted face-to-face with the orange captain during the last 4 Nations tournament in Cordoba.
How do you think you are performing in this 4 Nations?
I think we are doing fine; it's a preparation tournament, so we have to try some things out, to play in different positions and things like that. So, we have the time here to do it, to practice for the Olympics. That's the main goal for us here; to try things. There are good opponents, so it's good to train strong opponents so you can see if it's good to play in certain way.
Is it a special match for you, the Dutch, to play against Argentina?
Argentina is a strong team, and it's a team we like to play against because they are very technical and not really physical. So, it's always nice to play against them and they are really strong. It's a good opponent to practice against and we always have nice matches against Argentina. It's nice to play against Argentina.
Do you give this kind of tournaments like this 4 Nations the same importance as the Olympics?
No, these competitions are just for preparation. The outcome of the tournament, in which position we end is not really important for us right now because everything is preparation for the Olympics, until we get there (the Netherlands won the 4 Nations beating the local national team in the final game).
How is it to be considered the best player in the world?
Cool! ... (Laughs). It's an enormous honor, a great honor and it's really nice. I was really honored and surprised.
How is it to be the captain and the natural leader in your national team?
It's something that depends on who you are, if you have attitudes to be the leader. Of course, it comes also with experience and things like that. It feels a kind of natural thing; the other team mates feel the same, I think it's natural that I represent the leader position.
Are you a famous person in your country?
No? (Some frustration in the answer). Hockey is not the biggest sport in Holland, of course that place belongs to soccer. This is a really big sport in Holland; but hockey gets more popular every year. So, there's more media attention for us now, especially in the year of the Olympics. People watch more hockey matches. Then of course sometimes when you are walking in the street people can recognize you.
How different is your life compared to a ?normal? 30 year-old person?s?
Well, I don't think it's different because you play hockey so much. So, hockey is almost like your job. It's just a very special job; it's not like being a secretary or a doctor.
But you consider yourself a normal person?
Do you prefer team rewards to personal rewards?
Yes, because everything you do, you do it with a team. You are as good as your team is. Being the best player in the world, I think it's only possible if you play in a good team. They let me play better and I let them play better. So, the team is very important to achieve something.
Which team do you think is going to win in Athens 2004?
I don't know. I hope it's gonna be Holland. But if I know for sure, I'd gamble on it I think? But there are a lot of great teams like Argentina, Australia, China, South Korea. These ones are really strong, but they still have to qualify. It's tough to qualify, it?s a strong tournament. So, I think there are just a few teams that will have a chance to win the gold medal. Holland is one of them, but it's gonna be really tough I think.
Which is your team greatest strength ness?
We have a really good defense. I think this is the basis of our team, strong defense. We have good corner game and we have a fast attack.
And some weakness that you have?
Our strong points can be our weakest points. We have a really strong defense and we depend on that. And when something is going wrong, it can be bad for the team because you lean on that. So, that's our strongest point, but it can be our weakest part as well.
Do you think that field hockey itself can grow in some way internationally?
Absolutely. I think the media attention is very important for the sport. If there's a lot of media attention, people will see it on TV or read it in newspapers and I think the more people see it or read about it, the more they understand the game. And the more they will enjoy it because hockey is a difficult sport to be seen on TV and if you can broadcast it well with a lot of cameras, you can show it really well on TV. Because we have many rules in hockey and people would understand how the rules are. So, I think that if you show it a lot on TV, I think people will begin to like it.
If I compare field hockey to soccer which is big in Holland and big here (in
Argentina) also, everybody would watch it. Because hockey is quite simple.
And everybody knows the rules because everybody grew up with the rules of soccer. It's a big sport.
But I think that if you show a lot of hockey, people will understand and I think there's more energy in hockey than in soccer. Because it's a fast sport, there are ups and downs, there are more goals. There are more technical skills. So, I think if people know the rules and see it, they will enjoy it.
What do you do when you don?t play hockey?
I've got another job. I work for Ramstad, it's an important office. We have people trying to get jobs, finding jobs and things like that.
How do you imagine the international hockey in ten years from now?
I hope it's gonna be a big sport with more broadcasting on TV. I hope other countries become better in it and get the level teams like Holland, Argentina, Australia have today. I hope these countries try to copy and try to get better, so there are more countries in the world which are able to play hockey in a good level.
As I said, the media is very important because I think that when we get a lot of TV attention, it will be possible to play more professionally than how we do right now. And if it becomes more professional people will get paid to play, it will only improve the game. There'd be more practice to us, because now we need another job on side.
Is the ?video glasses? that you use during the matches useful?
Yeah, absolutely, but we only use it for corners. When you put it on, the video operator of the TV shows the picture of the corner and you see it in the glasses as if you look it on TV. You can see where the space is, where can we play, how do they defend that corner or what can we do to attack that on the best way. I put them in and I see how Argentina, for example, defends that corner with three on one side and one here, so you see where the space is.
How is Marc Lammers as a coach?
I think he is really modern. He thinks about things before other coaches do.
He actually thinks always a few steps ahead. What he does with the video glasses and some more things, but it is also in the way we look at the videos of the opponents. His training is very good and he is always watching some very technical things and on the other side he really looks at the details of the players of the teams. So, I think he is really modern, he thinks ahead. I think he is the best coach that you can have at this moment.
Which is the saddest memory that you can remember inside a hockey pitch?
The saddest moment I think it was the Olympics in 2000 because we expected to do really well there and we didn't. Everything went wrong on that big moment. Everything had to be right there and it went all wrong. We were third, so we won the bronze, but we really wanted to win the gold. I think it would have been possible, but everything went wrong that time.
And your happiest memory?
So far, I think that it is the bronze medal that we won in Atlanta 1996.
Because we were like sixth of the world and qualified as last country and nobody expected us to win a medal, not even us which is like going there and see what happens. And we won the bronze that was great.
But I think in a few years also the silver medal of the world cup in Australia (in 2002) will be one of the best moments. Now it's really fresh that we lost the final. Right now it is not remembered as a good moment because we feel the loss. But in a few years of course we will feel the winning of the silver medal.
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