New Delhi: They are the best of friends back home but when it comes to wielding the sticks for their respective franchises in the ongoing Hockey India League, the nature of fierce competition makes them bitter rivals on field.
For the Netherlands goalkeeper Pirmin Blaak, the sight of legendary Teun De Nooijer approaching towards the goal post or teammate Jeroen Hertzberger charging from the left flank does not petrify him. They, instead, make him more determined.
"The world`s best players are playing here in the league, they are my enemies now. I will play against them as now they are my opponents. But I will also play with respect for every opponent," Blaak said.
Blaak, who is manning the goal post for hosts Delhi Waveriders, said the beauty of the league lies in the fact that the teammates are pitted against each other.
"I am committed towards giving my hundred per cent to Delhi Waveriders. When Teun would be coming towards me, I will go full flow to stop him. I don`t think that as a Dutch, I will let him go. Strictly no, I will stop him and get him," said the goalie, who was one of the two goalkeepers for Holland at the London Olympics, the other being Jaap Stockmann.
Talking about out-of-favour Indian goalkeeper Bharat Chhetri, who was axed from the national side following his poor performance at the London Games, Blaak advised his counterpart to follow his heart and train hard.
"For goalkeepers, sometimes it`s hard luck. It`s very easy to criticise us when you take a few goals. My advice to him is follow your heart, and train well. One day when you start saving a few goals, you will regain the lost touch. Everybody would talk about you. I think that`s what he needs," he said.
The 24-year-old said that HIL will help players understand each other`s culture and style of play.
"It`s a challenge for the coach, for the team, for each individual player. We know the India style of play is new to us. If we can adjust to their system, may be they can play our system as well. Then, we think, we have the best of two playing styles in the world and Delhi team can surprise all other sides," he said.
Blaak sounded a warning to other teams as the hosts continued their winning momentum by defeating Mumbai Magicians 2-1 in their second match last night.
"We are one of the teams to watch out for. The Delhi team has some rich players with few experienced international guys. We look forward to the tournament," he said.
The Dutchman also praised his skipper Sardar Singh for being an inspirational figure on and off the field.
"He is a famous guy, as a person, he is doing well. He is friendly, gentle and well-organised. On the field, he is an inspirational figure. I think he will play good hockey for the team," he added.
Blaak said HIL is good for world hockey, and especially for the Indian team.
"I think, its best for all teams. Indian hockey is not bad, they could have finished much higher at the London Games. They have a very good team and they have some good drag-flickers, good skilled players.
"Their domestic series (HIL) will be great for them as well for international players. They will learn our culture of play, we will learn their culture of play," he signed off.