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Dutch goalkeeper Stockmann says he owes it to HIL

Posted on Feb 24 2014 | IANS

By Bharat Sharma, Ranchi, Feb 24 : World's leading goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann is not sure of his future with the Netherlands hockey team post May-June World Cup, and if he is certain about anything it is his playing in the Hockey India League (HIL) as long as he stays fit and feels motivated.

Stockmann, 29, says HIL could not have happened to him at a more opportune time and "am greatly idebted to it" for prolonging his professional career. He now feels secure even after chucking his job as banker back home a couple of months ago.

"It was getting tough to play at the top level and managing my bank job, even though I was required to work only 20 hours a week. Now I can fully focus on my game, all thanks to India," Stockmann, who was bought by Punjab Warriors for USD 68,000, told IANS ahead of the HIL final which his team lost to Delhi Waveriders in a shootout here Sunday.

Stockmann says the change in his life has come at the right time.His performance in the goal will be crucial if the Dutch are to reclaim the World Cup they last won in 1998.

"It is a tough year for us. I will be joining the national camp for the World Cup next week. It is a hugely important event for us to host and there will be serious pressure to perform. It is a tough group and first target will be to make the semi-finals," said Stockmann of the pool that has reigning Olympic champions Germany and South Korea.

The conversation moved to the state of Indian hockey and whether HIL has helped the domestic players get better.

"HIL is the best thing that could have happened to India but you have to give yourself at least five years to move up the ladder."

The Olympic silver medallist has a specific tip for the Indian goalkeepers, who lack the experience in comparison to their foreign counterparts and are also not preferred by most HIL teams.

"The Indian goalkeepers are coming up nicely, but what I see is that adequate attention is not paid to goalkeeping. Back in Holland, goalkeeping programmes are available even for a 12-year-old.

"Goalkeeping has a lot to do with the right technique, reflexes and patience. You have to let the ball come to you. Most importantly, you have to start at a young age and that's what is required to lift the standard of goalkeeping here," said the Bunnik-born custodian, who was named HIL Player of the Tournament Sunday.

Communication is another vital part of the game, something Stockmann had a hard time adjusting to in the multi-cultural HIL.

"It was tough to discuss with fellow Indian players last year. Things have become better now and I have learnt some important Hindi words to communicate with my teammates on the field. 'Aagey' and 'peechhe' for example." Not surprisingly, he signed off saying "dhanyavaad".

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