Field hockey coach Oranje-Rood has literary aspirations

Rob Haantjes Photo cedit: Willem Jan Schampers/ Studio040

Eindhoven native Rob Haantjes (55) is not only trainer/coach of the first women’s team of field hockey club Oranje-Rood but also a gifted writer of fantasy stories. The first volume of his trilogy “The Ramaika” was published in 2022 and volume 2 will follow in November. “Gennep is a magical place,” he says.

The setting for his fabrications is the medieval town of Eynthoven, surrounded by the villages of Woensel, Stratum, Gestel, and Genoppe. “Historical facts are interwoven with pure fantasy. Much of what is described takes place in Genoppe, present-day Gennep. Special, magical things happen there and there is a family that is cursed: the Raimaika. “Like that name (“As a child I called my play attic that, I don’t know why”) almost everything Rob writes is made up. Although he hastens to say that he did thorough research on the history of the Duchy of Brabant, where most of the events take place….”

Eynthoven around 1350 Photo credit:

An awful lot happened here from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century,” Rob, himself a great lover of Tolkien’s books, explains enthusiastically. “Kingdoms, duchies, and counties came and went, and there was plenty of warfare and plundering. Not to mention arranging marriages. So certain persons in my stories lived. Although a lot is also made up.”

Bedtime stories

The reason Rob started writing books about a family affected by a curse in the 14th century lies with his children. “When they were little, I used to tell stories at bedtime, set in the Gennep of many centuries ago. My kids loved it and we also regularly went for walks through the Genneper Parks. Eventually, I wrote everything down and had a manuscript of more than six hundred pages.”

"For some people, the Genneper Parken will never be the same" Rob Haantjes

Writer helps coach

It became the basis for the trilogy, which is now two-thirds complete. “I also use my creativity as a field hockey coach. I want to pass something on to my girls, about what I think is important in life. But I also stimulate them, by taking them out of their comfort zone. The totem animal of Orange Red is a hyena. If you google you will read that these are special animals. The women are in charge and they always hunt in groups. So one time I made my players all cry like hyenas.”

Sometimes the goal is to get his team to relax (“The girls are asked to guess which hyena howl belongs to which one”). At other times Rob is trying to distract his players from “just field hockey” for a while. In a way, he wants to achieve the same thing with his books and the walks he organises with small groups in the Genneper Parks. “People should use their imagination and discover for themselves what they find important in life.”

Respect for nature

Rob says he tries to create a world of experience in which nature is not violated at all. “I see it as the entertainment of the future, trying to preserve things while adding something to that nature. Without all kinds of action groups diving on top of it. I also don’t want signs or arrows. Nothing needs to be put in the ground. Nature remains untouched.”

The front cover of The Ramaika by Rob Haantjes. Photo credit:


It would go too far to tell the whole story, but the main character is a boy from our time, Sieb, who lives with his brother. Their mother has died and their father has been missing for six months. He worked for the municipality as a municipal archivist and disappeared during dredging work in De Vleut – near the Prehistoric Village. When the boys go to collect their father’s things from the municipality, they also get an old desk. In it, they find a very old book. Sieb starts to read it.”

So the story about Raimaika begins. Rob: “In 1311, Jacob van Genderen receives from Duke John III of Brabant the area on loan between Dutmala (the Dommel) and Tongler Reep (the Tongelreep): Genoppe. As a feudal lord, Jacob wants to build a castle. Right on the spot where the ruin of Ogenal stands, where a torenaar (servant of Pan, the god of nature, ed.) lives. Ogenal, however, refuses to leave, whereupon Jacob has the hut burned down and the torenaar is killed. Before he dies, he puts a curse on Jacob van Genderen and his progeny: the Raimaika, the curse of not sleeping.”

Past and present intertwined

This means there are two storylines, Rob says. “In the past: how do I get rid of that pesky curse? And in the present: where is our dad? The third part of the series will eventually reveal that breaking the curse has something to do with the father’s disappearance. Of course, I already know how it ends but you will understand that I’m not going to reveal the ending.” The fun spills over from Rob. “You know, field hockey and writing are strictly separate for me, but now and then I do threaten to turn someone into a character in part 3. Haha!”

Genoppe around 1400.Picture credit:

As for the future, Haantjes not only dreams that his books will one day be filmed, but also that the digital scavenger hunt for children, which he has worked out with the small company Magic Trails, will catch on. “Of course, the trail will go through the Genneper Parks. And a third wish I have is that my stories will eventually be translated into English. The many expats in Eindhoven are mostly nature lovers, who like to hike. What could be nicer than that I can tell them a piece of history about this special part of Eindhoven?”

Source: Studio040

Translated by: Aysenur Kuran 

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