BHUBANESWAR: Several members of the Netherlands and England teams at the Hockey World League Final have been taken ill over the last few days, thanks to what looks like a stomach bug.
Both outfits were forced to field depleted sides in their final group games on Monday and Tuesday. While the Oranje missed three players against Belgium, England had the same number of absentees against Australia.
Netherlands captain Seve van Ass suggested that it might be a food-related issue, and England coach Bobby Crutchley opined that the situation was far from ideal. That both teams, along with Argentina and Spain, are also staying in the same hotel has complicated matters.
Spain have not reported any such problems, but Argentina are facing one, with Augustin Abratte benched for their opener. The hotel has apparently blamed the team for the mystery illness. “I spoke to their managing director. The hotel is saying that it could be because of what they are eating outside,” Vishal Dev, Odisha government sports secretary, said. “Argentina apparently ordered pizzas from outside. How can you hold us responsible for that?”
When select media reached out to the hotel, they sang a different tune. “No team has complained to us,” a senior staff said. “We are not aware of any such issue.”
“We played with 14, not 18. That’s a bit tough,” Van Ass said after the Belgium clash. One of their four missing men (Mirco Pruyser) is injured, but the other three (Thijs van Dam, Joep de Mol and Pirmin Blaak) are down with some sort of a bug.
Netherlands will face Germany in the last quarterfinal on Thursday, and expect all their ill players to recover by then. As a precaution, they are not using ice cubes and tap water. Their players have switched to hand sanitisers. This is something they did the last time they came to Bhubaneswar, for the 2014 Champions Trophy. Fearing allergies, players were forbidden from even using the hotel swimming pool.
Crutchley didn’t want to arrive at any conclusion, but he said that his team was being extra cautious. “I honestly don’t want to make a judgment. I know our doctor is concerned about our players’ health. We are trying our best to ensure that they’re fine.”
The three ill English players (David Ames, Harry Martin and Brendan Creed) were so indisposed that they couldn’t attend training on Tuesday.
While Crutchley hoped that he would have them back for their last-eight match against Argentina on Thursday, he said that his team would be in trouble if a few more complained of ill health.
“You just try and keep the surroundings clean. It’s certainly not ideal with the physical exertions required. If someone gets ill, we separate them quickly so that it doesn’t spread.”
The state government has ordered a team to inspect the kitchens of all teams hotels — along with cooking ingredients — on an everyday basis.