(Photo: SUBMITTED)

The relationship between on-field officials and players in team sports is not always the smoothest. However, hockey has always been a little bit different to most sports, a fact proven at last weekend’s Euro Hockey League Final Four event when a very special presentation was made. 

On Saturday afternoon, retiring Bloemendaal legend Teun de Nooijer – who won his second Euro Hockey League title and was named ABN AMRO’s Most Valuable Player during the a memorable tournament – was given a unique gift from members of the umpiring community:  a farewell tribute photo album containing words of thanks from many of the world’s finest officials. 

Umpires including Andy Mair (SCO), Christian Blasch (GER), Tim Pullman (AUS), Roel van Eert (NED), Henrik Ehlers (DEN) and many others made hugely complementary written statements, praising the on-field conduct of a player who will go down in history as one of the all-time greats.

De Nooijer - who in 2005 earned his hockey rules diploma alongside former Bloemendaal coach Michel van den Heuvel - was presented with the book in front of his parents, two brothers and daughters. Speeches were made by umpires Andy Mair and Jonas van ‘t Hek, respected EHL television commentator Nick Irvine and photographer Annemonike Mustert, who played a central role in the development and design of the presentation book. 

It has long been known that De Nooijer has earned the respect and admiration of players and coaches all around the world, but the fact that he is held in the highest regard by the officials only serves to further enhance the reputation of the great man.  

A selection of the comments from within the tribute photo book can be found below. 

“Many sports are lucky enough to have players that make their mark on their chosen game. A few of them show skills or approaches that raise the previous expectations to another level. Some are even able to transcend sport itself, being recognised in many countries around the world and by fans of other sports. And one or two of those are even able to be known as being a ‘Star’. In hockey we have been fortunate enough to have many people with skill, some of whom have taken the game forward in ‘leaps and bounds’. But there is only one person that everyone in the sport would say embodies all of that and more, by being able to add that he is also a ‘gentleman’ - our ‘Star’ Teun de Nooijer.”

Andy Mair (SCO) – FIH World Panel Umpire (Beijing Olympics 2008)

“Congratulations on a fantastic career. It has been a privilege for me have umpired several matches involving you, both as Bloemendaal, Oranje and HTHC Harvestehuder player. Your skills on the pitch have indisputably been of the highest possible quality but also your Gentleman-like behaviour on and off the pitch has been second to none and underlined your status as one of our sports' biggest stars ever. Happy retirement. I am sure we have not seen the last of you around the world's hockey pitches.”

Henrik Ehlers (DEN) - FIH World Panel umpire / Umpires Manager

“It has always been a pleasure for me to meet you on one of the world pitches! During the last years we have met for a couple of times and your sportsmanship was always extraordinary and appreciated. Especially the positive communication on the pitch with me as an umpire, even at serious decisions was really exemplary. Apparently the time has come to say goodbye to your playing career. I think you achieved everything that a hockey player can achieve and you can look back on an exceptional life. I wish you all the best for the future.”

Christian Blasch (GER) – FIH World Panel umpire 

Source: Euro Hockey League