OpinionMonday, June 16, 2014
Aymar will say goodbye again
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Luciana Aymar, Argentina’s top field hockey player who has been named the world’s top player of the year eight times, played her 35th and final World Cup match on Saturday when her country beat the United States 2-1 for third place and she scored both goals — a fitting finale. She left the field amid thundering applause with a cramp five minutes from the end, but with her team fighting to avoid an equalizer she came back on again two minutes later to help to keep her lead intact.
Coach Carlos Retegui said he did not know what her future plans were, but she is likely to increase her 371 national team games yet. When asked personally, she confided that they were organizing a farewell match for her in Mendoza at the Champions Trophy in November/December and that she would be willing to play in that tournament. Asked about next year’s Pan-American Games, she said “Oh no, no. “So will Mendoza really be her final tournament?
The World Cup in Rosario, her home town, in 2011, was definitely going to be her farewell tournament, then the Champions Trophy at the same tournament a year later, following a third farewell at the Olympic Games in 2012. One cannot remember her saying it at the World League semi and final rounds, but about last week’s World Cup, yes! So will the Champions Trophy be her 4th farewell tournament?
She will be 37 soon. At 16, Luciana was the youngest ever member of the World Cup national team in Utrecht 1998, the only other time the men and women played together. Now, 17 years later she has two World Cup gold medals, two Olympic silver, five Champions Trophy, three Pan-American Games and three Pan-American Cup golds. For a long time she travelled to and from Buenos Aires every day for training. That takes some will.
Retegui says she is the best player Argentina ever had (he doesn’t know) and the best it ever will have (he doesn’t know), but she is certainly out of the ordinary and impossible to replace now.
What will she do now? Go to the beach! What will she do when she finally retires? Go to the beach? Will she ever take up coaching? “No, not coach. I think as a player, not as a coach!” Who knows? She may not be able to keep away from the game she loves and graced so well.