Raymond van Barneveld has claimed that winning his first Lakeside World Championship was the greatest moment in his career, before revealing that he’d be interested in working as a pundit following his retirement.
Van Barneveld will call time on his astonishing 35-year career after the 2020 World Championship and in an exclusive interview with the Josh’s Dartistry podcast, the legendary Dutchman reflected on a triumph that ‘changed his life’.
The five-time world champion made his World Championship bow back in 1991, although he announced his arrival by defeating Les Wallace, Dave Askew, Colin Monk and Martin Adams to reach his first Lakeside final in 1995, but his fairy-tale run was ended by Richie Burnett.
Nevertheless, Van Barneveld gained revenge for that defeat by edging out the Welshman in a thrilling 1998 finale, to become the first Dutchman to ever win a World Darts Championship title.
Barney’s victory was a ground-breaking moment in darting history and instrumental in the emergence of Dutch darts, which continues to flourish from both a PDC and BDO perspective. However, it was equally significant for Van Barneveld.
“The best moment of my career? That’s without a doubt my first Lakeside win because that win changed my life,” said Van Barneveld.
“I was a postman in Holland and every day I was dreaming about a professional career. In 1995 I lost the final against Richie Burnett so I was hoping to become a professional dart player but unfortunately no luck in Holland.
“Sponsors were still waiting, because what is this sport? What is it going to do in the future? Is it worth it to sponsor this man? Then in 1998 I fell on my knees and proved this could happen to a Dutch guy and it was amazing.
“It changed my life. I didn’t work as a postman anymore. I became a professional dart player. Every day I dreamt about it and 21 years later I am still living a good life in darts so I’m very happy that I lifted that trophy back in 1998 because it changed my whole life.”
Many would have anticipated that Van Barneveld’s incredible triumph against Phil Taylor in 2007 would rank above any other achievement. The Dutchman crossed the darting divide to challenge ‘The Power’ and he halted Taylor’s dominance in sensational fashion.
Taylor was bidding to win a 13th World Championship title in the space of 14 years at the Circus Tavern, but the doyen of Dutch darts famously fought back from 3-0 down to prevail in a sudden-death classic – dubbed the greatest game ever played.
The final was the first time that Sky Television achieved a viewing figure of over 1 million (1,028,000) for a darts match and it provided the ultimate highlight of what proved to be a classic rivalry.
Taylor called time on his career following the 2018 World Championship, although rumours have surfaced over recent weeks suggesting that the Stoke-on-Trent star could be poised to make a sensational comeback to the PDC circuit, despite the fact he celebrates his 60th birthday next August.
Van Barneveld still competes alongside the 16-time world champion in exhibition events, yet he believes the chances of his great rival making a permanent return are extremely remote.
“Phil is always Phil you know. If I know Phil, he says that he just loves the way he lives right now. I don’t really believe he’s coming back. I think it’s just when he saw the launch of the new Swiss points system of Target he was so excited about the world changing in darts.
“I think he was a bit over-excited about it but I don’t believe he’s coming back. In a way he will miss it in the same way that I will. I think he did enough for the sport and he knows that as well so I think the chances are very low that he will come back.”
One thing that cannot be questioned is the legacy Van Barneveld leaves behind. He was the flag-bearer for Dutch darts and without his exploits, we may not have seen the likes of Michael van Gerwen. As it is, the future of Dutch darts is in perfectly safe hands.
‘The Green Machine’ won his third World Championship title in January and needs to win two more to draw level with his legendary compatriot, but RvB was full of praise for his fellow countryman, with whom he won three of his four World Cup of Darts titles.
“There’s so many talented players in Holland right now and Michael [Van Gerwen] is amazing. Sometimes I’m thinking, ‘Wow I was good, Phil was good’, but this guy is winning so many tournaments, floor tournaments, Euro Tours, majors, being for so long the number one in the world.
“Winning the Premier League rankings I think for seven years. It’s the best 10 players in the Premier League and he always wins the league table after 16 or 17 weeks. Then in all these Premier Leagues he won five of them in the final, so amazing.”
Barney admits he will miss the intensity of competition which is inevitable given his extraordinary longevity at the top level. Despite this, he cites the increasing demands of the circuit as another reason behind his retirement and he now plans to spend more time with his family.
“I’ve got grandchildren now, I’ve got kids and I barely see them. 35 years in this business – it’s a really long time and every time you are on the road. There is absolutely no time for friends or family and hopefully from January 1st 2020 I can give them more attention,” he added.
Given Van Barneveld’s immense popularity and stature within the game, you wouldn’t envisage there being any shortage of opportunities available to him after he hangs up his arrows competitively.
The 52-year-old admits that he has no definitive plans in place post-retirement, but he has opened the door for a potential punditry role. He has frequently worked as an analyst for Dutch station RTL7 over recent years and he claims he’d relish the prospect of more media work.
“If ITV or Sky wants me then no problem. I will be available. I think my English is good enough to let everyone know what I think and that they understand me,” Barney continued.
“I would be open for that kind of work if it fits. First the exhibitions are important; above all you still have to earn your way of living of course. I have not decided what is the next step.
“Maybe do some management with players in the future or maybe build a Darts School and teach the youth how to play this game or find sponsoring to build a team. I have no clue what’s coming on my path at the moment.”
Photo Credit: PDC/David Callow