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Michelle Harvey is enjoying  life as a  professional

Michelle Harvey is enjoying life as a professional

©INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Michelle Harvey is enjoying life as a professional

Michelle Harvey is hoping to become the proud owner of a new car in the New Year when she returns to Belgium to continue her life in the fast lane as a professional hockey player in the Belgian Premier League.

Money is no object to her club Leuven and one of their sponsors is BMW, who are expected to provide a fleet of cars for the first team squad as part of the deal.

Michelle, who also receives a salary and free accommodation as part of her contract, joined the club from Pegasus after a chance encounter with a few Spanish hockey friends earlier this year.

"I was playing at the World League tournament in Valencia when I renewed my acquaintance with a few of the girls I'd met when Ireland played Spain in the past," she explained.

"They asked me would I be interested in joining Leuven where they were playing and things took off from there.

"I actually share a house with two of the Spanish internationals and the club also has a Dutch girl in the first team squad, so it's quite an international line-up.

"Most of the players want to learn English, so I haven't needed to brush up on any other language.

"Team talks can be a bit crazy as you'd have players conversing in Flemish to some of the girls, French to others and English to me but foreign languages come easy to the Belgians."

Michelle says she is loving her life as a professional sportswoman in a country where hockey is big business thanks to sponsorship and rich benefactors.

"Both the men's and women's sections have financial people on board who look after that side of things and we reap the rewards," she added.

"Although the facilities we have at the moment are pretty good, Leuven are building a new clubhouse and laying two new pitches in the New Year and the set-up will be along the lines of the one at Lisnagarvey.

"At the moment we all have second hand cars but the club is hoping to get new ones from BMW soon."

Michelle, who plays at the centre of defence for her club, says the standard is slightly higher than in the Ulster League and there are also other differences.

"The league is much more competitive than at home and you could beat one of the top teams one week and then lose to one of the lower placed sides in the next game," she continued.

"There is also much more of a social side to the sport in Belgium and players always stay on in the clubhouse after games.

"Our matches are on Saturdays and the men play on Sundays, so when we are both at home we support each other and socialise afterwards, so there is always a great atmosphere about the place."

Michelle certainly keeps herself busy because, in addition to playing and training with Leuven, she coaches hockey at a British school in the city.

Her contract expires at the end of the season and, at the moment, she is considering her plans for next year as she continues to live the dream.

In the shorter term, Michelle is keeping her fingers crossed that she is picked for the Ireland training panel for next month's warm weather training camp in Spain where her house mates will become her adversaries in a series of international challenge games.

Belfast Telegraph


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