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Ireen van den Assem: ‘Glad that Raoul gave me the opportunity to sit on the couch’

Her name was on the scoresheet, but she did not play in the second and ultimately decisive game in the final of the women’s play-offs . Ireen van den Assem won her eighth national title, her last as a player of Den Bosch, at the expense of Amsterdam sitting on the couch in a tracksuit. A muscle injury kept her aside for the entire play-offs. “I’m glad Raoul gave me the chance to sit on the couch.”

On Thursday she walked during the first final match in her casual clothes in the Wagener Stadium. On Saturday she was given a place on the reserve bench by the also departing Bossche coach Ehren. Given her injury, it was not realistic to expect playing minutes.

‘We didn’t actually talk about that,’ says Van den Assem about a possible raid. ‘You don’t know how a match like that goes. It will never be a big result in a final. I don’t think I would have felt very comfortable with it, and I would never have forgiven myself if something had happened that prevented it from falling our way. ‘

Keetels Van Geffen Van den Assem Welten Den Bosch WV
Marloes Keetels, Margot van Geffen, Ireen van den Assem and Lidewij Welten with a gold medal for winning the national title with Den Bosch. Photo: ANP / Willem Vernes

No risk with injury

Van den Assem did not want to take any risk with her muscle injury. The hockey season is not over for her yet. In more than two weeks, the European Championship with the Orange Ladies is just around the corner, followed by the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

‘I have to and want to fight for my place. At this point I couldn’t take any chances because at the end of the ride I would never forgive myself if I got injured. I was glad that I could sit there again in my tracksuit, walk in with the girls and stand in the huddle. Given all the circumstances, I am happy that Raoul has at least given me the opportunity to sit on the bench. ‘

As a bench seat, Van den Assem experienced her last game as a player of Den Bosch. ‘Before the game I was briefly with Marloes, Lidewij and Margot, the girls with whom I have played here the longest. That was a special moment. A lot of emotions are involved. You look at each other again and then you don’t really have to say anything anymore. It was very difficult to keep it dry. They are tears of happiness and joy, but also of the realization: holy fuck , it is also the last time. ‘

It was weird because I didn’t get rid of the tension at all.Ireen van den Assem about watching from the couch

Van den Assem could only watch her teammates record in the final match against Amsterdam. ‘It was weird because I couldn’t get rid of the tension at all. Normally, when you play, you quickly lose that feeling. That was not the case now. ‘

‘I had decided to sit on the sofa with a smile and to make sure that I would have a positive influence on the girls,’ Van den Assem continues. ‘How? By complimenting the girls when they came to the side, telling them something useful, how to play a personal duel. We shouldn’t make it bigger than it ultimately is. It’s about the little things, but at least having the connection with the girls on the couch. ‘

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Ireen van den Assem takes care of the injured Lidewij Welten during the second and deciding game in the final of the play-offs in the Dutch big league against Amsterdam. Photo: Willem Vernes

From her position she saw that Amsterdam came out better than last Thursday when Den Bosch won 1-0. Both teams did not get many chances and the game seemed to be heading for shoot-outs. In the last five minutes, events followed each other in rapid succession. Floor de Haan of Amsterdam got a yellow card after a duel with Welten, who stumbled to the side injured . Shortly afterwards Den Bosch received a corner which was followed by a second corner, which was eventually dragged into the top corner by Frédérique Matla. It was the last action of the game because the final whistle had already sounded. The twentieth national title for Den Bosch was in.

‘It was a strange moment because Lidewij had dropped out just before’, Van den Assem recalls the last minutes. ‘I wanted to go to the team, but it occurred to me that I couldn’t leave Lidewij alone in the dug-out. I ran back and took her to the team on the field. ‘

Glass globe from Ehren

‘But do you know what I found extremely bizarre?’, Van den Assem continues. At the last penalty corner, Raoul called out to Margot what he wanted. He came back to the dug-out and said, Ireen, I’m going all-inn. What are you going to do? ”I asked. Does the ball go back to the declarant? No, last night I dreamed that Matla is going to push the ball into the top left corner of the goal. Three seconds later, the ball actually went into the top left corner. It was such a weird moment. As if Raoul literally has a crystal ball at home. Very bizarre. ‘

Ireen van den Assem Maartje Paumen WV
Ireen van den Assem receives congratulations from Maartje Paumen for winning the national title with Den Bosch. Photo: Willem Vernes

After eleven seasons, eight league titles and seven European club titles, the 31-year-old defender says goodbye to Den Bosch. ‘I’m going to miss this very much, especially the girls and the feeling that you share together. I have won a lot here. You remember that, but you also remember how you enter a process together, how we try to maintain the culture together, try to pass it on to a new generation. That you want to keep each other on their toes in the locker room and on the field. ‘

Corona year

The farewell gave the season a different feeling, a season that was already special due to corona. ‘In any case, it is different every year, but with corona this has become a year in which we have very limited ourselves in what we have done off the field. I missed that very much. When you experience something so intensely, you sometimes have to discharge. That was quite difficult in a year like this. ‘

‘We didn’t make many memories because you couldn’t visit each other. We wanted everyone to be able to keep playing and no one to get corona. I think we deserve a compliment for how we did that, that everyone put everything aside. That is the only reason why I think the title is justified. ‘

From Den Bosch to Tilburg

By bike to the hockey field. Playing in her own backyard. ‘The adventure that I will take on after the summer will be very different. A different club, a different culture, a different group of girls, a different staff. It also seems like a lot of fun to me. It is all new and fresh. I’m looking forward to that. ‘

Finally, Van den Assem says about her period at Den Bosch: ‘Jip Krens van Tilburg said the last thing nicely: such a last match does not necessarily define the entire period that you played at a club. I think that is also true for me. I would have liked nothing more than to compete with the girls for gold. Unfortunately I was not able to do that on the field. I don’t think this should get in the way of the feeling of pride I have in all the eleven years I’ve played, in everything I’ve been through here. Yes, that is something very special. ‘

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