Herakles incredible family spirit the major inspiration for homegrown de Kerpel

Herakles sharp-shooter Nico de Kerpel says the club’s incredible family spirit is a crucial part of their success as the Lier-club takes on their very first EHL match against Atletic Terrassa on March 30.

They were the fairytale story of the Belgian league last season, finishing second in the regular season and backing that up with victory over Racing Club de Bruxelles in the playoff semi-finals.

De Kerpel is the side’s top scorer and rising star, lining out with the Belgian Red Lions at the World League final in Bhubaneswar and also on their recent tour to New Zealand.

He started playing with Herakles at the age of four, making this his 21st season in blue and white. In the side, Marco and Victor Donck are brothers whiled Cedric Struyf is their cousin. Louis Hottlet is a brother of de Kerpel while Amaury and Fabian Timmermans are also brothers.

And de Kerpel says this is the reason the club’s fans are among the most noisy in the Belgian league, telling the EHL website: “This is the reason why our fans are so involved with our team. It’s really amazing to play in a club like this one!”

“It means a lot to play in the EHL! I’m in love with my club but every year when we are watching the EHL, people told me I needed to change club if I ever want to play in it.

“Being able to play it this year with all my best friends and with Herakles is a dream come true. Sharing this with our crowd makes it even better!”

Looking back on their road to EHL qualification, he says that it was not something that was a direct target before the closing weeks of the campaign when they realised how close they were to the playoffs.

“Throughout the season, we honestly didn’t think about playing the final four but, with six games to go we were still in the running for it.

“At that moment, we started to dream about it. We finished second which is really amazing for a squad where only three players didn’t grow up at Herakles.

“I have a couple of favourite memories from last year: The game where we qualified for the play-offs. We won away against our direct opponent with a winner from Jerome Legrand five minutes before the end.

“Then the semi finals against Racing. In the first leg, we were winning 4-1 at half time and we honestly didn’t know what was happening. Thanks to our amazing crowd we managed to keep a bonus of two goals for the return game.

“In the second leg, we were nowhere in the first half but thanks to Alexis Leclef we scored just before half time (2-1). In the second half, we had eight corners against us but our defensive pc did a terrific job and then Cedric Struyf finished a counter. This must be the best moment of the season. At that time we knew that we were qualified for the final.”

Since then, there have been a number of changes with Xavier Reckinger moving to coach Racing this season. Adding to their homegrown talents are the likes of New Zealand’s Nick Haig and Jacob Smith – recently back from injury – Ireland’s Jeremy Duncan and Spaniard Tanasu Perez. European silver medalist Amaury Keusters is a central figure.

De Kerpel admits that his side has not hit the same heights this season so far; they currently sit eighth in the Belgian Honour Division, 10 points off the playoff places.
Nonetheless, it gives de Kerpel extra motivation for the KO16 to show what the side is about.

“I’m really keen for this second round of the competition because I think we didn’t do great in the first half. We want to show the outside world that last season wasn’t an exception.

“Being able to participate at the EHL is a great reward for our 2016-2017 season so now we want to focus towards this. Even if this our first ever EHL experience, we believe that we have chances to go through the next round.”