Last weekend, the third edition of the ABN AMRO Integration Cup was held at KHC Dragons, in Belgium.

EHF President Marjke Fleuren was present to award Portugal the winning cup after a great performance against Italy. Final score 3-0

Portugal are also the reigning European Champions, as their ParaHockey team took the top spot at the Euro ParaHockey Championships in London in 2015. Italy, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands and Spain also took part, with Spain receiving the FairPlay Cup, for their display of sportsmanship.

EHF President Marijke Fleuren presenting the trophy to the winners
EHF President Marijke Fleuren presenting the trophy to the winners

The Integration Cup brought 6 nations together, but also brought many KHC Dragons club members to see the exhibition games which formed part of the weekend, both ParaHockey and some featuring some top Belgian clubs. KHC Dragons and Olympic Silver medalist Felix Denayer also took some time to meet with the Para athletes and watch the action.

Belgian national team and KHC Dragons player Felix Denayer visiting the Para athletes
Belgian national team and KHC Dragons player Felix Denayer visiting the Para athletes

EHF President Marijke Fleuren said: “Portugal played very well against Italy in the final. I was impressed by their tactical skills. And the way they sang their national anthem a Capella… Emotional!” Below you can find a short video of this moving moment:

Portugal’s journey has so far been a rewarding experience, not only in their competition success but also in their strategy of inclusion. Joana Gonçalves, President of Portuguese Hockey Federation explained her nation’s journey to ParaHockey success. “Firstly of all, we had to find the right partners; partners able to guide us in this spectrum of intellectual disability. Therefore, the partnership we have established with the National Association of Sports for Intellectual Disability (ANDDI-Portugal) has proved to be crucial.” Joana stressed that collaboration with INAS is also important, as it holds down a marker for the goal of joining the Paralympics in the future.

ALL teams

But Portugal’s success has a lot to do with their approach to the athletes. As Joana explains, their athletes are expected to commit and work hard, as all other athletes in national squads are, “We try to prepare athletes to be able to demonstrate a strong commitment, make good decisions, respect others’ decisions and be autonomous within and outside the field. Despite the high sensibility we need to deliver when working with intellectual disability groups, our athletes are seen and approached as any other athlete of any regular national team.

playing teams

Pedro Avila, Portugal’s Sport Officer and also a member of the EHF Youth Panel explained Portugal’s strategy going into the tournament at KHC Dragons “Our focus for this competition at KHC Dragons was mainly to consolidate some tactical aspects as well as to provide more international experience to these players. We are gradually integrating new members in the National squad, evaluating their adjustment in an international environment.”

Euro ParaHockey Championships, Amsterdam 2017

Next year alongside the EuroHockey Championships 2017, the fourth edition of the Euro ParaHockey Championships will take place 20 – 24 August. KNHB hopes to host 11 teams (of 12 players) to compete for the title and share an amazing experience. The tournament will be held in a local Amsterdam club, while the final will take place on the main pitch at the Wagener Stadium. Is your nation ready to bring a team? Or do you wish to volunteer at this tournament? Contact us with all your questions and download the 2017 ParaHockey Flyer for more information.