Simon Gougnard, a midfielder, doesn’t score a lot of goals. Before the Hockey World Cup semi-final against England on Saturday, Gougnard, in 114 matches for Belgium since 2013, had scored just 14 goals. When he scored his 15th (and Belgium’s second of their six against England on Saturday) off a penalty corner deflection, he made a firm fist-pump before jumping on Arthur van Doren. His teammates mobbed him. They were a little overjoyed than usual.
But it wasn’t a mere celebration of a goal.
Gougnard, on the morning of the match, received a call from home informing him of his bedridden father’s demise. But he chose to stay back to play for his team. There was, hence, an additional motive for Gougnard and his teammates to win the semi-final against England.
Gougnard, with the goal, helped his team.
Belgium, by qualifying to the World Cup final for the first time, thanked Gougnard.
“We are just really proud at what happened. We played in the honour of (the) father of Simon who suddenly passed away [on Saturday],” Gougnard’s teammate Tom Boon, who was man of the match, said after the match.
Arthur van Doren, FIH player of the year (2017), appreciated Gougnard’s dedication. “His father was hospitalised before we came here. We didn’t know [of his demise] last night. We just knew he was in a critical condition. This morning [Gougnard] came with the news that he passed away. Our thoughts are with him and his family,” he said.
“I think it’s admirable how he performed today. It shows his character. I get goosebumps talking about it. He spoke to us [on Saturday morning]. I can’t be more proud on how we played.”
Belgium’s World Cup isn’t complete though. They still have three-time winners Netherlands to conquer and be crowned champions for the first time.
And, van Doren said his team would work harder in the final for Gougnard. “We owe that to him and owe that to his family. We all have an obligation to go out there and do well for him. We will [win it for him] in the final.”
Coach Shane McLeod said despite Gougnard’s grief, he was committed to play the game for his father.
“[Gougnard’s] father’s been ill for a long time,” he said. “So, he knew about the illness. He spent a lot of time with his father before coming to the World Cup. They managed to talk about things and his father told him to stay and complete the World Cup.”