It should have been just the beginning of a year-long farewell from the sport which he has given so much to, but Raymond van Barneveld has brought the curtain down on a glittering career earlier than expected.
The five-time world champion received an emotional send-off from his home crowd at the Ahoy Rotterdam for the second night in a row this evening, but also for the second night in succession he suffered a chastening 7-1 defeat by his opponent.
Only 24 hours earlier, it was Daryl Gurney handing out a heavy defeat to van Barneveld, a result which meant he went into ‘Judgement Night’ this evening with his fate already sealed.
Regardless of his result against the world number one Michael van Gerwen, which turned out to be another 7-1 defeat, tonight was van Barneveld’s final game in the Premier League.
It is a tournament which has provided some of his most fondest memories in the sport. Who could forget the great Dutchman going all the way and lifting the title in 2014, beating arguably the two best ever players to do it, in Phil Taylor and van Gerwen, on finals night?
Or those two nine darters? The first against Peter Manley in his debut season in 2006, and the second against Terry Jenkins in 2010. Even as recent as last year, when he defeated Simon Whitlock and van Gerwen on back-to-back nights at the Ahoy Rotterdam?
But while the Premier League has meant so much to van Barneveld, it is not the be all and end all, and this season’s campaign, while it did not go the way he envisaged, being eliminated on ‘Judgement Night’, there were still plenty of more farewells to be had, none more so than at the World Championship at the end of the year.
One final tournament, the biggest in the sport no less, with the biggest worldwide audience watching, is what a legend of the sport deserved. Phil Taylor had it, and almost pulled off the fairytale finale, finishing one win short of a record 17th world title.
But that seems to be no longer be on the cards. Barely had the Rotterdam crowd finished serenading van Barneveld on stage after his loss to van Gerwen, Barney was informing the media present that “I’m done now.”
The pain of those two 7-1 defeats has proven to be the final blow van Barneveld is willing to take. His first address to the crowd tonight was that he felt ashamed, winning only two legs over the two nights, and his elimination from the Premier League only vindicates those that said he should not have been selected as a wildcard for the tournament.
It was Barry Hearn, the PDC chairman, who once said there is no place for sentiment in sport. Well, van Barneveld’s selection as a Sky Sports wildcard was for sentimental reasons, and in the end it has come back to bite them.
Van Barneveld finished last season only just still in the top 32 of the world, his performances in 2018 did not warrant a place in the elite field, which is what the Premier League is, the elite players.
While the crowd’s reaction to seeing van Barneveld ‘one last time’ have been nice to see, the last eight weeks have also shown that his days of competing in the Premier League are behind him.
Barney’s performances during those nine games have frustrated him so much that he has brought his retirement forward nine months.
To see a legend of this sport exit through the back door, announcing on Sky backstage at the Ahoy Rotterdam tonight, that he was finished is not the way anyone wanted him to go.
Away from the relentlessness that is the bright lights of the Premier League, Barney has reached a ProTour final and qualified for two European Tour events. Qualification for the World Championship was well within his grasp. Let us just hope van Barneveld does not come to regret this decision.
Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
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