A team based sport
And then you received Piacenza’s offer?
“Yes, and that was very significant, because Piacenza was Italy’s national champion at the time. They were a very professional, high-level team, so I simply had to go. I experienced a lot more pressure while with Piacenza, but the coach was amazing, we worked on our technique a lot, and as main attacker I was given a lot of responsibility. I was surrounded by a very talented team that worked well together, so that helped a great deal. I loved it, because I got to meet a lot of people, both within the world of volleyball and without, and I was able to learn Italian. And whenever I felt homesick, Hélène (Rousseaux) and Laura (Heyman) were close by; they played for Modena at the time, and we were able to meet up quite frequently. That helped a lot. We all became a lot better in Italy, because volleyball is so much more professional there than it is in Belgium. It is a really big sport in Italy.”
Why did you leave Piacenza?
“The first year was amazing. We became champion and had a strong team. But the second year was rather disappointing – maybe the biggest disappointment yet in my entire career. Both in terms of my playing and at a human level; a new coach came in that year and some of the team members left, and the team was a lot less tight-knit after that. Some of the players were very focused on themselves rather than the team. When push came to shove, they did not do their utmost for the sake of the team’s success. And after all, volleyball is such a team-based sport. It is important for the players to be able to depend on one another, and to have a coach who is able to bring out the best in the team. Those are two lessons that I learned the hard way that year.”
And so you left to go overseas, moving on to a new adventure in Brazil. Playing in a country like that, where volleyball is huge, must have been amazing? The Brazilian national team has been internationally renowned for many years.
“I ended up in Sao Paolo, playing for Osasco. It was a very different experience for me, a real culture shock. I remember my first few training sessions there really well (laughs). I did not speak the language at the time. But in terms of the sport, things went smoothly, and I quickly realised that the Brazilian league is truly one of the best in the world. I played with true celebrities, stars in the international world of volleyball. One of the highlights was the semi-final for the Brazilian national championship. We beat Rexona Ades, the favourite by far, at 3-2 (15-10 in the tiebreak).”