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Archive for July 18, 2022

July 18, 2022 — An appreciation: Belen Succi, goalkeeper, Argentina

One in an occasional series.

Back in July 2008, Gabriel Minadeo had a problem. His Argentina women’s national field hockey team had lost three or four matches to the United States in a Test series in Chula Vista, Calif. He made an interesting choice heading into the Beijing Olympics: carrying both Paola Vukojcic and a promising 22-year-old named Belen Succi.

The problem is that carrying both of them on the active roster for the 2008 Olympics took away 1/5th of the usual bench strength for an Olympic women’s hockey team.

Argentina needn’t have worried. Succi’s inclusion in the side was a master stroke for the Albicelestes, as she would embark on a 15-year national team career, one which ended last Sunday with a silver medal in the FIH Women’s World Cup.

Succi was, for me, the first of today’s modern, physical goalies. She could fearlessly stop killer blasts from the edge of the circle, scramble from wing to win to snuff out scoring opportunities, and was a master at sprawling her frame to block the lower sector of the goal cage.

More importantly, Succi had all of the physical gifts needed to win penalty shootouts. But the thing is, the Leonas were always so good in regulation time, there was often no need to call on Succi to defend penalties.

Succi had legendary players in front of her. It is easy to forget that she had to defend shots from legends like Luciana Aymar, Noel Barrionuevo, Soledad Garcia, Delfina Merino, Carla Rebecchi, and Agustina Gorzelany every day in practice.

Of all of the world tournaments that have concluded thus far this month, and all of the careers which have ended, watching Succi walk off the pitch for the last time is one of the most heart-rending. She’s been a great servant to the game, and she will be missed.