With a cracker against Michael van Gerwen, Dimitri van den Bergh begins the second leg of the Premier League darts today. Many thousands of Flemish eyes will probably see, as the success of “Dancing Dimi” has raised the popularity of darts with us to unprecedented heights. “Belgium has the pace with them”, says ex-darter Eric Claridge.
“Van den Berg is in good shape, but everything is close to each other in PL”
Things are going fast for Dimitri Van Den Berg. Last year he broke up with the general public, starting this year – partly due to a cruciate ligament surgery – with many doubts, but in recent weeks he has fully re-emerged in the prestigious Premier League. 2021 appears to be the year of confirmation for the Belgian dart stopper.
“He has proved that his position is at the absolute top,” said Belgian darts pioneer Eric Claridge. “It is a punishment to be at the top of the Premier League as a debutant. He had some luck sometimes, but he forced that fate himself. Although the levels are very close to each other. So it is impossible to say which of the four players will make it to the playoffs.
“Van den Berg is definitely in good shape, as fifth in the standings is after three points and he already needs to win two more games from him. A lot will depend on his first match against Van Gerwen. He made it to the first round. Drawn 6-6. If he can at least equalize it, Van den Berg will take a big step towards the play-offs.”
Van den Berg finished the first leg of the PL as the (co)leader in the competition.
“In Belgium we have always been eager to be there”
For years, darts seemed to have remained a sport on the margins in Belgium, but van den Berg’s top-notch performance recently breathed new life into darts. Claridge was one of van den Berg’s predecessors in the ’90s, but he experienced from the front row how the sport’s poor organization in Belgium curtailed the potential for local darts talent.
“When I started in the late 80s, the level was quite high in Belgium,” he says. “The Belgian darts circuit was probably considered more international than, for example, the Dutch circuit. But in the mid-1990s, our northern neighbors saw a sudden change due to the massive success of Raymond van Barneveld.”
Darts legend van Barneveld caused a huge darts promotion in the Netherlands in the late 1990s.
“It was the beginning of an incredible Boom In Dutch darts: training and composition became much more professional and many new talents gradually emerged. Meanwhile, the Netherlands is the darts nation outside the United Kingdom. On the other hand, in Belgium, we’ve always been eager to get there,” says Claridge.
“There was little or no organization from above, no guidance for the top players and above all: no youth work. Then you run after the facts. Almost nothing has changed today. No umbrella federation. and there is no sight.”
“It’s now or never for darts in Belgium”
Due to the success of Van den Berg, the economic downturn in darts in our country seems to be slowly ending. Will Belgium soon follow the example of its neighbors of the Netherlands and will our country become a major darts nation?
“In any case, Belgium have the pace with them. Players like Van den Bergh and the first Kim Huybrechts put darts on the map here. Let’s not forget that Hubrechts paved the way for van den Burgh. Without Kim , Dmitry was on top of the time. Probably not switched from BDO to stronger PDC.”
Let’s not forget that Kim Huybrechts helped pave the way for Van Den Berg.
“Van den Berg’s recent top results have now taken the popularity here to unprecedented heights. Something has started and is expected to continue to grow. Van den Berg could create the van Barneveld effect in Belgium,” notes Claridge’s We do.
“Today dart players are very attractive both financially and in terms of media attention. Young players in our country are inspired to follow in the footsteps of Van den Berg or Hubrechts. It is now or never. If we don’t take If we take steps in the coming years, perhaps the momentum is gone for good.”
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