Hellevoetsluis 2013

Alan Parker presents Wim van Noortwijk with Scotland LX whisky

Alan presents the organisers with the Famous Scotland LX whisky

The Hellevoetsluis Mussel Festival tournament takes place every two years (though it is three years since the last one as the 2012 event was postponed until this year) and has proven to be one of the most social of all the Thistles activities. This year has been no exception, although it looked at one point that it may fold because of lack interest. This is not however strictly true, and to be fair to the club, came with very short notice for people to commit to. Hopefully, this will not be the case in two years time and we will be able to send a full squad.

The Thistles seem to me to be a pretty resolute bunch and a group not prepared to drop an event that has been so very popular over the years. Six of us therefore decided to go ahead after a little guidance from Ian Downie and Graham Conkie.

All went exactly to plan apart from one of our six picking up an injury just before he set off. Anyway, five is a nice easy number and the main thing was that we had a goal keeper who we knew and recognised from the Thistles Swansea trip. Wim van Noortwijk, the Dutch organiser, had fixed us up with utility players from his own club HC Voorne to make up numbers to play a match against the German National over 70’s team and also fitted us into a team to play in the Thursday 60+ tournament.

The game against the German team I think was intended to be a gentle warm up and goal scoring match for them so that they were up and ready to play the Dutch National over 70s team the following day. It didn’t quite work out like that and I personally think that it was a cunning plan by Wim to tire them out and soften them up for the next day. They were an organised bunch of very fit old guys with a very determined and physical streak in them. As the game started, we thought that we were going to get hammered and if it wasn’t for a series of very good saves by Dick Pearce, we would have been. As the game progressed, we got our act together and started to put more pressure on them. The result was 2-2 in the end and a bunch of very tired players left the pitch. The game was in the German’s favour to begin with and ours to finish with. The Thistles came off at the third quarter when we reached 2-2 and the Dutch players from Voorne held the score till the end.

The following day we were entered into the Zestigplussers' three weekly 60+ tournament. The teams, nine in all, were selected by computer to be as equal as possible, although for this match series all five were put into the same team instead of being distributed amongst the teams as in previous years. Ages and abilities ranged greatly, which tended to even out the teams. On the whole the teams were strong in the centres and weak at the front and back. Our four outfield players played as halves with Donald and myself pushing up to support the forwards whenever we got the chance. With most of the teams being venerable at the back, the team who broke through the midfield often scored, or had a very good scoring chance.

We won the first game 1-0 but lost the second 2-3 after a very unfortunate touch from one of our defenders from a cross originating way outside the ‘D’ took the ball past Dick into goal. The third game was a draw 2-2. This means that Scottish Thistles have now only lost one game in the last 6 tournament rounds. I consider that all of our team played well for most of the four games, but Dick Pearce deserves a mention for the penalty he saved and the number of fine saves he made during the tournament.

Dick and Alan in Hellevoetsluis harbour

Dick Pearce and Alan Parker at Hellevootsluis harbour

I have to say that this tournament is a tribute to a lot of old guys having a lot of fun and involving their wives and partners in the process. Our girls were treated to a guided tour of the very picturesque harbour and cruise on a 100 m sailing schooner, not to mention the evening entertainment in the club house. The organisation of the Tournament was faultless and we were made to feel very special and privileged to be there. We have been instructed to bring the kilts next time and do a bit more of a Scottish ‘turn’. Our only real cultural contribution this time was to get them to say Sláinte and Sláinte Mhath instead of Prost.

To end this report we must mention the Mussels and Oysters evening, which is the theme of the Tournament. If Mussels and shellfish are your thing, then this is the event to enter next time. As many as you can eat for as long as you can eat them. Good food, good entertainment, good hockey and finally some very good friendships were made. We have been asked to pass on our regards to those who have visited this tournament in years gone by and to our hosts in Holland and particularly Wim van Noortwijk, dank je wel.

Alan Parker