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IWAS PCH WC 2022, Entry 8 (Sunday 14 August): Finals

Entry 8 of an assistant’s web-log of the IWAS Powerchair Hockey World Cup 2022 Sursee

Today is the last day of the IWAS Powerchair Hockey World Cup 2022 that is happening 9-14 August in Sursee, Switzerland, for my son and his team mates of the Belgian National Powerchair Hockey Team. It also means that there is no more than one more day of getting up early. Some things are really important to personal assistants of athletes with a disability…

Team Spain and their 15-legged mascot

Today we needed to get up early because our game is the first final of today. We play against Spain to determine who will take 7th and who will take 8th place. Yesterday evening, the finals game Canada-Australia ended with a score of 8-2, meaning Canada took 9th place and Australia ended 10th. I assume you have noticed how all teams play a finals game. I deeply appreciate the underlying message that all teams count…

I am intrigued by the mascot of the Spanish team. They explain it is a 15-legged octopus, as Team Spain has 15 members: 10 players and 5 staff members. I simply love the symbolism of the team’s cohesion and expression of unity.

But then, it is…match time: Spain-Belgium.

Team Belgium starts off ok. We come into the lead 3 times during the first half, with Spain evening the score again after our first two goals. Our son enters the game at 12 min in the first half.

Our son entering the game against Spain

I observe how his first action is great. That is important because powerchair hockey is a fast game that allows little or no time to stop and think things over. I am proud because I know how our son has been observing the fierceness and assertive styles of playing of other teams. It has opened his eyes a lot. And now I see him enacting the ingrained observations. Again. Beyond his defensive work, I like how he facilitates forward actions. The “Verheyen Screen”, I hear as a live comment during the livestream. It means that our son moves forward side by side with one of our forward players, thereby preventing our forward player to be blocked by an adversary.

Mid-game score: 2-3 (for Belgium!).

“A slight surprise,” says the reporter on the live stream… But it is a confirmation that I am witnessing the finest Belgian play I’ve seen so far at the world cup. Finally, a foundation to build upon. That is what I hope we came for, more than for actual results. It feels good to end the tournament and prepare to go back home with at least that finding.

On a personal note (1). I can’t do anything but honestly admit that at this time the relief is too little, too late for me personally. During our stay here, the tensions and uncertainty have been accumulating so much that I ended up with a continuous headache that has stretched over a few days by now. It is a sort of migraine I suffer from regularly and of which I’ve learned over time that it is always caused by stress and tensions. What makes it exceptional is that I am not getting it under control, which has never happened before. Not even the max dose of my usually useful medication is helping to take away the pain and reverse the situation.

On a personal note (2). I am also in real-time exchanging messages with family and friends in Belgium who are watching the game on the livestream, as I’ve done throughout the whole world cup event. They also wonder why there are no more substitutions on our side, as we knew upfront that we are not here for results, but for learnings. I repeat how I feel that his presence makes a difference. I repeat how our son and I talked about the potential opportunity for him to play and how he should go full in when he gets that chance. Which is exactly what he is doing. That was already the case for the 5 minutes of play time he got against Switzerland (see entry 5 of my “assistant’s web-log of the IWAS Powerchair Hockey World Cup 2022 Sursee”). I guess we have been made clear–indirectly–that the rest is not our decision to make or to speak up about…

The part of the game against Spain where our son plays (the 10-minutes break included)

Our son is substituted with 10 minutes to go in the second half and a score of 4-4. In no time we go to a score of 7-4 with 7 minutes to go. The final score is 8-5. We take 8th place and Spain takes 7th place.

My son and I skip watching the final game Italy-Germany for the 5th and the 6th place (end score: 7-0), but do watch the sensational final game Finland-Switzerland for 3rd and 4th place. At the end of the regular playing time, the score is 4-4, with Finland only evening the score in the very last minute of the game. The rules of powerchair hockey say that the teams then play an additional 10 minutes max. However, the team that first scores within that 10 minutes, wins. If after the additional 10 minutes, the score is still even, shoot-out penalties decide who wins. In this case, Switzerland scored the “golden goal” after some sensational suspense that ultimately lasted 5 minutes and 25 seconds.

The final for 1st and 2nd place, Denmark-Netherlands, is decided with a golden goal too. Denmark wins 3-4. Although Denmark has demonstrated their qualities throughout the previous stages of the tournament (see entry 7 of my assistant’s web-log of the IWAS Powerchair Hockey World Cup 2022 Sursee) in this final they suddenly revert to a sturdy and passive form of (what I would call) anti-hockey, where the whole team remains before their own goal. Meanwhile Team NL does whatever they can to attack, find a hole. Much to our surprise Team NL even gets officially punished for (what is called) “passive play” (a new rule that holds that a team needs to hand over the ball to the other team when keeping it in the team for too long). When Denmark wasn’t even trying to capture the ball, but leaves it to the Netherlands the whole time. This is sportspersonship and fairness turned upside down. I can’t imagine a jury (who makes this call) to be able to honestly apply a rule to actually justify a situation that the rule was designed to prevent. It still happened. Anyway, Denmark is the world champion.

Ultimately, my conclusion is that also in powerchair hockey there are honorable winners and there are teams that win by not losing. I honestly hoped that such cynical play was limited to money-intoxicated sports like soccer. Not, it seems. But, hey, in the end sports games, like life, aren’t designed for fairness. It makes fairness a choice, rather than a built-in, inescapable must. Some make the choice. Others don’t.

After the closing ceremony, we head back to the hotel and its surrounding facilities. Earlier today it was suggested to leave earlier than planned. The original plan was to leave tomorrow (Monday) after breakfast at around 8 am. The new plan is to leave at 1 am and use the night to drive home. It will help us avoid Monday traffic and its jams. With a strange inner grim, I think it also helps me avoid having to get up early for breakfast another day. In a way…

We go to the dinner that is being organized for all teams (at 9 pm) which is followed by a little dance party. The powerchairs have been loaded onto the bus already before the closing ceremony. Our luggage and suitcases have loaded already before dinner so that no time is lost when embarking at the newly agreed time of 1 am.

This party’s over. We’re going home.

I hope you enjoy reading all about our adventure for which I envision following episodes:

If you want to watch any of the games, check out the IWAS YouTube channel where all will be broadcasted:

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