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Red Lions welcomed home after hockey World Cup win
Thousands of supporters gathered in Brussels' Grand Place on Tuesday to welcome home the Belgian Red Lions, who have been crowned world hockey champions.
The national men's hockey team beat the Netherlands 3-2 on penalties to win the World Cup on Sunday in India - and in doing so, the first Belgian world title in a team sport since 1991.
A few hours after landing at Brussels Airport, the players were received by the royal couple at Laeken, before heading into central Brussels to appear on the balcony of City Hall.
The win has put Belgium into first place in the field hockey world rankings. It was a good end of the year for a team that has been progressing slowly to the top 10 of the rankings over the last decade and that was relegated to second place at the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2017 EuroHockey final.
News outlets around the globe were enthusiastic about the win, with the Odisha Hockey Men’s World Cup report saying that the team has capped “what has been a remarkable rise over the past 10 years” and calling it “one of the greatest moments in the history of Belgian team sport”.
The Times of India said that “when their time to rejoice came, God chose to tease them before gifting a success that they deservingly earned from hard work of over a decade”.
The Red Lions are coached by Shane McLeod of New Zealand, who told Sporza that he had emphasised stories of perseverance in his pre-match talk to the team. Starting with a personal story about his own family, he then reminded them about the film Slumdog Millionaire, which is set in India.
“It’s the story of a young man who came from very humble beginnings,” said McLeod, “and got to the million-dollar question by answering questions that he should never have known, but because his life had taken him in that direction, he knew them. But the last question he didn’t know, and he just put his faith in it: If I’ve gotten this far, then it’s meant to be.”
Photo: Thierry Roge/Belga