A constant beeping of his mobile phone woke Tom Boon from his slumber. He was attending a national camp along with his Belgium teammates at the time, and initially, he was displeased that the much needed rest was cut short.
His initial annoyance turned to curiosity when he saw the list of twitter notifications that announced him being drafted to the Mumbai-franchise of the upcoming Hockey India League season. A few minutes later, through another tweet, he was informed of the $103,000 winning tag that purchased his services.
“I had a feeling I’d get picked, but the amount was a shocker,” he says. Clueless on how to react to such a revelation, the 24-year-old decided to wake up his roommates and tell them the news. “I really didn’t know what else to do,” he adds.
While his Belgium teammates were pleasantly surprised by the windfall, they also made sure that Boon treated them. For instance, the players would normally go dutch for lunches and dinners. “Now they just point at me and tell the waiters to give me the bill. They say I’m the only one who can afford it,” he recalls.
The hefty price tag overtook Dutchman Teun de Nooijer’s $87,400 bid form the Uttar Pradesh Wizards. Dabang Mumbai franchise did have Boon as their prime target. “We are a new team and needed a world-class goal scorer. He is one of them and the fact that he’s a good drag-flicker further helps,” says team advisor Viren Rasquinha. Boon’s goals for HC Bloemendaal in the Dutch League feature him as the third highest goalscorer, another aspect the HIL-franchise was impressed with.
The hockey fraternity, too, reacted with little surprise. Hardly an eye-brow was raised as Mumbai splurged the money. From a prodigious talent a couple of years ago to being one of the biggest stars of the game, Boon’s rise has been mercurial. He almost single-handedly destroyed Malaysia with four goals at this year’s World Cup, sealing his spot as one of the best goal-scorers in the world. His fourth goal against Malaysia saw him beat four defenders before slotting the ball through the narrowest of gaps to become the only four-goal scorer of the tournament.
He has also developed a reputation as a fearsome drag-flicker while proving his ability to carve chances out of nowhere, as was evident in the just-concluded Champions Trophy. At 24-years-old, Tom is now approaching his prime as a hockey player, and as Belgium keep snapping away at the heels of their higher-ranked opponents, his ability to create and score at will be at the heart of Belgium’s team.
Boon says the fact that he belongs to a hockey family has assisted his rise. His uncle Marc Coudron holds the record for most caps for the Belgium national team (358). He and his sister Jill became the first brother-sister duo to take part in the same World Cup.
“It made a big difference because they all knew how to help me.”