Hey Robert, thank you very much for your time. We would like to take a look at the upcoming indoor season with our clubs!
What is your goal for the 2023/2024 indoor season?
We want to be competitive and play for the top 2 places in our pool. Of course, we take this seriously and want to feel good about ourselves. But we also have to be realistic and realise that we're playing against very strong, evenly matched teams.
The hockey calendar is pretty full at the moment: the World Championship for U21 teams takes place at the beginning of December, and the Olympic Games are also just around the corner. How much of an impact will this have on the league?
Normally, the whole league with all the players would be a madness. It will be a bit less, as will the general level of the whole league. It's a shame that not everyone is there. Nevertheless, it's still a super strong league. Especially at the end of the indoor season, when Austria, for example, is also playing an Olympic qualifying tournament. That will take even more important and good players out of the league.
In the Netherlands, the association has already pulled the plug on the indoor programme, where you were the association coach for the men's team. Would you like to comment on this? Is it true that it's too much for the players?
It's rubbish that it's too much. The way indoor and outdoor hockey have been compared was rather biased, and did not give a neutral view on indoor hockey itself. The calendar is full, but that has nothing to do with indoor hockey itself. It's always been clear that the outdoor competition takes priority, and we've always stuck to that. Last year (2022), the indoor season was full with two tournaments (European Championship and World Cup), but that was due to the pandemic. It wasn't well planned by the FIH and EHF, but we only played with players who were authorised by their clubs. We played these two tournaments with a small group of people who are real indoor hockey fans.
It doesn't all sound so easy, there's been enough discussion about it in the Dutch media, so let's come back to the German league for a moment. Which game are you most looking forward to?
Personally, I'm particularly looking forward to the first game against UHC Hamburg. It's a Friday night game in our own arena and it's a derby. I've often been told that the atmosphere is great then and I'm really looking forward to it. The fact that it's also the start of our indoor season makes it even better.
With so many players missing compared to your field team, your team is bound to change quite a bit. How do you put your team together? What do the foreign players do?
We play with a lot of young players and want to give them a chance to get minutes. We have a lot of foreign players, some of whom don't play indoor hockey at all. Many of our New Zealanders are back home. They also have an Olympic qualifying tournament and are preparing for that. Our Austrians play the most, but they also have a qualifying tournament at the end of the indoor season. But these boys are real indoor hockey players and difficult to compare with other foreigners. With Oliver Binder and Leon Thörnblum, we also have guys who won the European Championships and the World Cup last year. Apart from that, we're playing with a lot of younger German players and have to puzzle a bit. As we lack some experience, I got my stick out and I'm also on the players' list!
Who do you think will make it through to the next rounds (and maybe the Final Four) and who will play against relegation?
I don't know the opponents in our pool that well yet. We want to play for the top places for as long and as well as possible. I expect HTHC to have a very strong team and to finish in the top two. Between us, UHC and Alster, it will probably be a question of who can secure second place for the next round.
Thanks so much for your time Robert, Team TK wishes you and Polo the best of luck this season!