“To think I had never decided for myself is shocking”

TerraceBerta Bonastre (Matadepera, 1992) is reluctant to talk about the definitive withdrawal of field hockey. Next season she will play for the Belgian Gantoise, but before that she will face a different challenge, the direction of the Women’s World Cup to be held jointly in Terrassa and Amstelveen (Netherlands) between 1 and 17 July. An event that will not live from the grass after knowing, a few months ago, that it did not enter the plans of the Spanish coach. He talks about the World Cup and the present and future of this sport in an interview with ARA.

Is playing at home more of a special motivation or added pressure?

– It’s a combination of the two. Over time we have learned to manage high expectations and to know that you cannot sing victory against any rival prematurely. The girls in the selection are well prepared. I don’t want to talk about medals, because in sports you never know where you can get to. They have the skills to get there, but they are mentalized that no game is won before they play, and that before the qualifiers it is the group stage. There is experience and also young girls eager to win. If they concentrate on playing match-by-match, the external pressure will dissolve a bit, because they will have their attention focused on each rival and will not think so much about external factors. I think they will know how to manage well the fact of playing a World Cup at home, which will be very nice. I am surprised that since the 1992 Barcelona Games there has never been a competition like this in Terrassa.

Can this World Cup serve as a speaker to drag more girls into field hockey?

– I hope it serves to promote women’s sport, it could be a good time for many girls to see how far they can go. It is very important to take the energy and momentum of this World Cup to organize many more competitions of this style and that can be seen projected in a few years. The problem with hockey is that it is only talked about for a few months, when you win a medal. There needs to be more girls to maintain that potential and the medals are not punctual, but regular, so that sport is consolidated in the country. If families see girls competing with the best teams in the world they will be more attracted to hockey. Things need to happen at a high level and girls need to understand that only with talent will they get anywhere. Work is needed.

In February you explained in a letter that, “unexpectedly and with tears in your eyes”, you were retiring from the Spanish national team, where you had been since you were 15 years old. Did you see yourself playing in the World Cup at home?

– A World Cup in Terrassa would have served to close the cycle and my friends could come to see me, which they could not do in the London Games or the Rio Games. After the Queen’s Cup I decided to make the last effort, because there was half a year left for the World Cup. But two weeks later I received one whatsapp of the coach, Adrian Lock, saying that he wanted to renew the team thinking about preparing for the 2024 Paris Olympics and many players were forced to close this stage. It was difficult, because the ways we were communicated were not the right ones. I think an athlete should have the right to know what their last game with the team will be. Mine was at the Tokyo Games, but we deserved a better ending. Luckily I was able to play a lot of things and had a great time. And now I have the opportunity to be the director of this World Cup, an experience to see how a sporting event is organized and live it differently.

Didn’t you see yourself playing in the Paris Games?

– No, he didn’t see me anymore. No longer for a physical issue, because I felt good to follow, but mental. Here it is difficult to find jobs that accept that you play for the national team. I have to make a lot of sacrifices with family and friends that I used to do with my eyes closed, but that I was getting less and less like. He wanted to do other things, because he could do almost nothing. After I got up I went to the gym or to the pool. At noon I trained with the team at CAR Sant Cugat or at a club. Then, if I didn’t have to work at some job, I would rest a bit until I went to train girls. And, in the evening, training with the club. And in the summer, when everyone has a vacation, we have the most important competitions. Half of the year we lived together with the selection teammates. After the break for covid everything cost me more. He saw that he could do many other things that we had forbidden or that we unconsciously did not do. When I got out of the non-stop routine I saw that there was more life. You don’t realize many things because you’re like a machine; they always decided for you, because you didn’t plan to go to the rallies, you went there because you had to. To think I had never decided for myself is shocking.

Does it make up for all the sacrifice made so far?

– Yes, for all the moments that sport brings you. It is true that I am a privileged person who has been able to go to two Olympic Games and that many people have made the same sacrifice and have not been able to go. I don’t remember when I had to go to a cold workout alone in the cold or when we cried over a hard workout we didn’t expect, but good times like the bronze medal at the 2018 World Championships in London, being at the opening of some Games in Maracanà or in the Olympic Village. Besides, there are the values ​​of being part of an elite team, which change you as a person and which I will always appreciate. It’s worth it, but you have to like it a lot, because there are hard times. Many of the friends I started with didn’t get there because they didn’t have the same sacrifice.

Ten years ago, in 2012, you made the leap to Belgium by signing for Royal Wellington. Did it mean a drastic change?

– Yes. It was a drastic but positive change. When you’re 20 and you’ve never lived alone, being able to meet people from other countries and learn different things is great. At first, I was very shocked to see that all the players there spoke English just as well as French. There were meetings in English that, if we held them in Catalonia, no one would understand anything. Then I was surprised by the attitude of the players, who may not be as technical as here but who were thrown for all the balls. I really liked that. The mentality there is to go and score a goal more than the opposite. The one here is more conservative: go defend and, if you score a goal, we’ll see. I, as a striker, was very happy there. The first day my parents came to see me I scored four goals, a fact I had never scored in the Honor Division.

We are talking about a more professional hockey.

– Yes, in Belgium women’s hockey is more professional than here, where there is a gap between what you can achieve in terms of competition and the resources they give you. There they give us a flat, a car and the conditions to be able to live quietly and play. Also, the clubs paid me for the trips with the selection. On the other hand, schedules are very different, and that’s one of the things that pulls me the most. Here sometimes we just trained at eleven at night. There you can combine it with a more normal life. They have a different mindset. They know much more about sport and hockey and you find a higher percentage of companies that want to have athletes, because they understand your career and value skills such as integration into a team, the ability to do the job on time or the mentality. of athlete. In Catalonia many people tell you that you don’t have a curriculum. I wish girls who want to play field hockey don’t say they have to leave to have an easier life. In the two Belgian clubs I have played for they have given more resources to girls than to boys, and that is appreciated. You have to look at where you can get results, but that costs money.

What needs to change here to promote this cultural turn?

– On the one hand, to promote minority sports such as field hockey. The media can do more. In Belgium or the Netherlands there is much more promotion of sports other than football, basketball, tennis or Formula 1. If the government does not try to promote sports like hockey, which has very healthy values, it is difficult. that companies in this country want to identify with it or have a great deal of involvement with their athletes. No matter what sport it is, sport in general needs to be encouraged much more, for the health of society. That children don’t just want to play football because that’s what they see on TV – we need to start encouraging all children to be able to choose from many other modalities, like in the UK or the US.


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