It wasn't just the Wagener Stadium that was rocking in Amsterdam during a feast of international hockey. Just a short distance away, Pinoke HC was also playing host to an international festival of hockey in the form of the Euro ParaHockey Championships.
Portugal, Netherlands and England claimed the Pool titles, but the 150 athletes who took part would agree that they were all winners at this fabulous event, which took place from 20-23 August 2017.
Organised by the European Hockey Federation (EHF) Youth Panel, the event was aimed at hockey players with learning difficulties.
Running alongside the EuroHockey Championships, some of the world's best international athletes came along to support, whilst the ParaHockey players were able to take in some of the action at the Wagener Stadium.
Teams from nine European countries took part in the event, which included Pool matches, Finals, social events and an end-of-tournament party. Participating this year were Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Belgium and England with France and Ireland participating for the first time.
While the emphasis was on fun, participation and development, there was a lot of hockey to be played and titles to be decided and, in the Championship Pool, Portugal defended the title they won two years ago in London, while the Netherlands won the Trophy Pool.
England won the Challenge Pool but, in a show of great sportsmanship, the England team called their opponents Spain onto the winners’ podium. This was because the England goalkeeper had fallen ill, so a ‘keeper from the Netherlands had stepped in. England felt the numerous saves made by the Netherlands ‘keeper meant the Spanish team deserved the gold medal as much as they did.
Speaking about this event, EHF President and FIH Executive Board Member Marijke Fleuren said: "Even after a week I am still glowing as I remember the joy that the ParaHockey Championships provided for everyone involved in the event. It is such an inspiring discipline within our sport. To see all the athletes do their utmost to compete and see first hand the benefits they experience is very emotional. A big thank you to all the supporting staff and parents who helped out at this event, whilst I would also like to give a big compliment to the EHF Youth Panel for leading these Championships."
Reflecting on his experience, Mark, one of the Dutch ParaHockey stars, said: “This is so awesome, you can’t imagine what this does for me, to play here in a home stadium, in front of so many people,” while his Dutch teammate Frankie added: “This was beyond my expectation. We did the Netherlands proud.”
Three days of great hockey action was topped off when the teams received their medals from Great Britain’s Rio 2016 Olympic gold medal winning duo Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh.
The tournament format comprised three pools with four mixed teams in each pool. The matches were contested by two teams of seven, the games are two x 10 minutes and take place on a half pitch.
At the 2017 event, which attracted a record number of entries, 150 ParaHockey players took part in more than 50 matches.
Activities like this are very much in-line with the FIH's 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy which aims to make hockey a global game that inspires the next generation.
For more information about ParaHockey in Europe, visit EuroHockey's official website.