International sports bodies confer annual awards on outstanding performers. In individual sports, it is usually not that difficult as individual performances and achievements speak for themselves. However, in team sports it is not that easy.
International Hockey Federation (FIH) has awards in five categories: Player, Rising Star (for players under 23), Goalkeeper, Coach and Umpire of the Year.
There are five male and five female nominees for the Player, Goalkeeper and Rising Star awards by a panel consisting of the FIH Athletes’ Committee, Continental Federations, Coaches and Media.
The final selection for Player, Rising Star and Goalkeeper awards consist of both a peer vote comprising fellow players and coaches as well as a fan vote on www.fih.ch, which saw over 110,000 votes being cast this year. The votes are then calculated as a weighted percentage (75% for the peer votes and 25% for the fan votes).
On the contrary, the Coaches are chosen directly by an FIH panel and the Umpires by the FIH Officials Committee, without any nominations.
All awards were based on performance at international events during the 2018 season, as well as individual’s overall contribution to the sport.
Belgium, who won their maiden World Cup title in 2018, made a complete sweep of the men’s awards: Player of the Year, Rising Star and Goalkeeper. For good measure, their New Zealander coach won the Male Coach award.
Holland was the most dominating among the women teams, winning the World Cup as well as the Champions Trophy in 2018. They won the Player of the Year and their Australian coach got the Female Coach award.
Seven of the 10 winners are Europeans. Of the three non-European awardees, two (both the coaches) won while coaching European national sides.
The only ‘pure’ winner from outside is Argentina’s Lucina vod der Heyde, female rising star.
Male Player of the Year:
Arthur Van Doren (Belgium) won it for the second successive year. Last year, Van Doren claimed both the Player and Rising Star Awards. Van Doren was an outstanding performer as Belgium claimed their first ever World Cup title at Bhubaneswar where he was declared the competition’s Best Player. A truly world class defender, Van Doren has the ability to instantly turn defence into attack. The perfect all-round player had silver at both the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2017 European Championships.
Female Player of the Year:
Eva de Goede (Holland) was a star performer in the Netherlands team that stormed to the title at the Women’s World Cup in London last year. It was a second successive World Cup title for the 200-capped brilliant mid fielder, who also captained the Netherlands team that lifted the Champions Trophy 2018, winning player of the tournament award along the way. She has been a long-serving member of the Oranje, with back-to-back gold medals at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games, apart from the World Cup gold in 2014 and 2018.
Male Rising Star of the Year:
Arthur De Sloover (Belgium), a composed and consistent performer in the defence, won this award, available to players born on or after 1 January 1996. He was Belgium’s youngest player in their World Cup winning team last December. He also has silver from the European Championships and Junior World Cup.
Female Rising Star of the Year:
Lucina vod der Heyde (Argentina) has carried the great Argentine tradition of showcasing gifted youngsters at major tournaments. It was the fourth time in last five years that the Female Rising Star Award was won by a player from Argentina. The influential midfielder was voted Young Player of the Tournament at the World Cup though her team had been eliminated in the quarter-finals. She has a Junior World Cup gold and also played at the last Olympics.
After her brilliant display at the World Cup, she has been signed by the top German club side Mannheimer.
Male Goalkeeper of the Year:
Vincent Vanasch (Belgium) shot to world fame after his performance in Belgium’s shootout triumph over the Netherlands in the World Cup final.
Of all the six award winners decided by vote, Vanach easily topped with 46%; his winning margin of more than 27% is also the highest.
Vanasch, winner of the award in 2017 as well, was always destined to be a goalkeeper. Aged five he first put on a pair of goalkeeping pads, made from bamboo. The small boy had to be constantly picked up by his father as he dived around the goal; agile on his feet but too small to be able to get up again with the huge pads weighing him down.
He has represented his country more than 200 times, in an international career that took off in 2009.
Female Goalkeeper of the Year:
Maddie Hinch (England) won the award for the third consecutive year. Her performance was more creditable since her team failed to finish among top four at either the World Cup or the Champions Trophy. Hinch’s in-depth research into her opponents has opened the world’s eyes to the science behind goalkeeping and elevated the position from being seen as simply a last-ditch ‘shot-stopper’ to being a position that calls for a special blend of mental sharpness, agility and courage.
Male Coach of the Year:
Shane McLeod (New Zealand) Head Coach, Belgium Men, was the joint winner last time. In 2018, McLeod guided Belgium to their historic first World Cup triumph which also moved them to the top of the FIH World Rankings.
McLeod’s international coaching career started with the New Zealand men’s team. He trained them at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Moving to Belgium, he worked with several clubs and the women’s under 21 side before taking up the national men’s side.
Female Coach of the Year:
Alyson Annan (Australia) Head Coach, Holland Women, has also won the award for the second year running.
As a player she has phenomenal achievements: two Olympic golds and two World Cup golds. 166 goals is an Australian record. In the coaching role, under her command, Holland remained undefeated throughout 2018, winning the World Cup as well as the Champions Trophy.
In 2017, they were the European Championships and in 2016, Olympic silver medallist.
Male Umpire of the Year:
Marcin Grochal (Poland) umpired in the quarter-final and semi-final at the World Cup 2018 before getting the honour of blowing the whistle in that memorable final. His success demonstrates that one doesn’t have to be from a top hockey playing country to become a top umpire.
Female Umpire of the Year:
Michelle Meister (Germany) had a very successful 2018. She umpired at the Indoor World Cup in Berlin before being involved in ten matches at the Women’s World Cup in London as either an umpire, reserve umpire or video umpire. Then in October, Meister became one of the first two female umpires to officiate in European Hockey League, THE world’s best club hockey competition.