10 of the squad stayed at a Youth Hostel in Zoersel, about 20 km from the hockey. It was one I used fairly regularly when I took groups walking in Belgium.
Some of the others were quite apprehensive, wondering what sort of barn I was inflicting on them in spite of the relatively low cost - especially when compared to the hotels in Antwerp where the other age groups were staying - but they were pleasantly surprised!! It was as I remembered it though, clean, welcoming with excellent food and a bar with prices way below pub tariffs (beer all below 3 euros and good wine at 8 euros a bottle.
The problem was that we were there to play hockey, not simply to sample various refreshments.
We arrived on Tuesday, June 18th and reported at the KHC Dragons in Brasschaat for a warm-up session on Wednesday mid-morning, before the opening ceremony in the afternoon. Needless to say, we spent time renewing friendships with players from all over Europe, America and Australia. (It may have been the European Cup, but the Trophy competition included several touring sides from Outside).
The weather was hot and sticky, threatening all sorts, but confined itself to a few short, sharp showers.
We (LX Over 75s) were due to play Southern Cross (Australia) at 1230 on Thursday and woke up to a thunderstorm and torrential rain but, as our luck was in, we actually played in hot. moist conditions without precipitation. As expected, it was a hard game in which we had the better of possession, but failed to use it very well, A draw would have been a fair result, but we managed to allow them a winning goal in the last 90 seconds of the game, losing 2 - 1 in the end.
The heavens wept as a result!! It rained and then it poured down and then it hailed for a good 20 minutes, hammering on the car roofs (and everywhere else)
and was quite painful on the skin!! Cars we met while driving back to the Hostel looked more like boats slicing through the water on the roads.
On Friday we played the Netherlands - the other "Old Enemy". No rain!! Hot!!! Temperature 30+ and sticky. Once again, we failed to use the ball as we ought but still managed a 2-0 win. Barbecue back at the hostel with Pisang Ambon cocktails to contend with (Scott Mulligan might remember them from the Green Devils event...)
Saturday was our rest day, so some of us trained on the crazy golf. It was an 18 hole course set in a beautiful garden, adjacent to a fine café where we lunched before going to cheer on the England Over 75s. Unfortunately, our cheering didn't help them...
Sunday was our game against Alliance, on paper the weakest team in our competition. Temperature 35+ in the shade, and there was no shade on the pitch.
Neither team seemed able to perform particularly well, and we performed marginally less badly than they did, winning 1-0 - enough to put us in the 1st / 2nd play-off.
Highlight of the day was to see LX Ladies pull back from 3-0 down against Alliance to finish at 3 - 3, with their first goal scored by Mary Schwier and Jan Randle performing very well in midfield.
Our final was on Sunday at 1430. Hottest day yet... 37+, and against Southern Cross. We knew it would be tough! No game against the Aussies is easy and they had a squad of 15, of whom most were in the 75 - 78 bracket whereas we had a mere 13 players of whom 6 were over 80. They probably had better possession than we did to start with, but could not score in spite of winning a series of penalty corners. We scored first and the game finished at 2-2 - probably a good indication of our relative strengths.
Then it was a shuttle shoot-out which we eventually won 4 - 2. GOLD!!! So my scrap value has risen by about 1.2 pence.
The best things to come out of my visit to Brasschaat are that the Over 80s is now recognised by EH in the same way as the Over 60s, etc.
there will be a selection committee and we will have to hold trials (just like the other age groups). The Netherlands team is 99% certain to be playing an International on April 16th and participating in our 7-a-side event on April 17 / 18 and 19 next year. What is more, there is interest in our tournament from Japan, Australia and USA (particularly as it could fit in with participation at the Tilburg event the following week-end).
Watch this space!!