King Willem-Alexander paid a visit to Genneper Parks in Eindhoven on Wednesday. He was given a tour of the sports facilities and spoke to athletes, coaches and volunteers about the impact of the coronavirus on sports.
Since 29 April, children are allowed to play sports outside. Further, since 11 May, people of all ages are allowed to play outdoor, non-contact sports, as long as they maintain one and a half metres distance from each other. However, sports competitions are not yet allowed, and changing rooms and canteens at sports clubs remain closed.
The King wanted to see how people are finding ways to exercise responsibly whilst adhering to the measures in place to combat the coronavirus.
The king visited several Eindhoven-based sports clubs throughout the day. At FC Eindhoven, he spoke with head of youth training, Pascal Maas. ‘He asked all kinds of questions about our approach to training our teams of boys aged 12 to 18, such as how we can explain to children how to keep one and a half metres of distance.’ Maas describes the king as easy going, and says that talking with him is ‘as if you talk to each other every day’.
Tennis and hockey
King Willem-Alexander also visited Genneper Parks’ tennis club. Koos Wever, a member of the tennis club’s management board, describes his surprise at seeing the king: ‘it stopped me in my tracks. I saw him walk across the tennis club grounds to Oranje-Rood’, one of Eindhoven’s biggest hockey clubs.
At Oranje-Rood, the king participated in a roundtable discussion with representatives from various sports clubs in Eindhoven. Chairman Pieter Janssen did not know in advance that the king would participate. ‘Suddenly the king, Willem-Alexander, walks in and you also have the chance to speak to him for 45 minutes in the boardroom,’ he says.
Like Maas, Janssen describes speaking to the king as a nice experience. ‘We mainly talked about how the clubs started up. We also spoke about issues that are particularly relevant right now, such as how we can keep the club atmosphere going, and how we are going to cope financially.’ Although he understands that the king can’t solve these problems, Janssen appreciates how ‘he has a listening ear. He shows understanding and asks the right questions. He’s the king, but when you’re talking to him, you don’t notice it at all’.
During the king’s visit, Oranje-Rood started their first training session after coronavirus measures forced them to close several weeks ago. ‘We now have a sports field full of children up to the age of 13 who are playing hockey again,’ Janssen says. He laughs as he recalls the children’s bewilderment: ‘you could hear them say, “huh, is that the king?”’.
Janssen says he is glad to be regaining the club’s group atmosphere and hopes it remains that way.
Sources: Omroep Brabant and Eindhoven City Council press release
Translation: Rachael Vickerman