The FIH Hockey Pro League second season gets underway in January 2020 after a hugely successful first edition. We caught up with the coaches and players from the participating teams as they prepare for the new look FIH Hockey Pro League season to get underway. In the following interview, two superstars of Belgium?s Red Lions ? midfielder Victor Wegnez (nominee: FIH Player of the Year 2019) and goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch (nominee: FIH Goalkeeper of the Year 2019) ? look ahead to the 2020 competition.
Reigning World and European champions Belgium (FIH World Ranking: 2) finished the 2019 FIH Hockey Pro League season in second position, being narrowly defeated 3-2 by Australia (WR:1) in the competition final. Fascinatingly, their 2020 campaign starts with an away fixture against the Aussies on 25 January 2020.
What are the team's ambitions for this second season?
Vincent Vanasch: "The ambition of the Belgium national team for this season of the Pro League is to develop young guys and to develop our tactics, because our focus this [coming] year is on the Olympics, Tokyo 2020. I think we want to reach our best potential by the end of June, so we will be ready in Tokyo."
What are your thoughts on the new FIH Hockey Pro League format that will be introduced in the second season?
Vincent Vanasch: "The difference between last year and this year in the fixtures is that we are going to play two home games against the same team in each country, so twice in Belgium. I think this is really good from a sport point of view, because we are going to stay with the team a minimum of three days or five days in the same hotel to play twice against a team, so we can focus on details, we can recover really fast and adjust some details."
Which fixture are you most looking forward to?
Vincent Vanasch: "For this season I'm really looking forward to all of the games because all of the points are important. Especially the two games against the Netherlands, which is always a derby for us, and I think it is going to be a great game with lots of pressure, but we are going to enjoy [it]."
What was your #MyProLeagueMoment of the first season?
Victor Wegnez: "I have actually two. The win against Argentina in Argentina, because that was the first game where we had a really massive crowd cheering against us. It was pretty warm and I think there was around 6,000 people watching a hockey game, which was pretty nice, and it was not in India, so it was the first time I have seen a lot of people [at a match outside of] India, so it was pretty ok. The second one was the win against Holland in Holland in the semi-final, which was also a pretty good moment for Hockey Belgium."
What message have you got for the fans to get them along to watch the matches in the second season?
Victor Wegnez: "We hope to see you all for the first game of the Belgium national team in Wilrijkse [Antwerp] between April and May, so if you want to come and see a good hockey game with some goals and some rhythm and some good action, we are awaiting you in Belgium to come and watch a game. See you soon!"
Re-live the first edition of the FIH Pro League on www.fihproleague.com and www.fih.live!