Raymond van Barneveld admits that it took three or four weeks to recover from his painful World Championship exit, but the five-time world champion believes he made the right decision to retire from the professional circuit and is now looking forward to the future.
Van Barneveld’s glittering 35-year career culminated with a 3-1 defeat to Darin Young in the first round of last month’s PDC World Championship, and the doyen of Dutch darts appeared shell-shocked in an emotional post-match interview with Sky Sports’ Rod Studd.
Speaking to LiveDartsTV at the Icons of Darts Tour in his first UK interview since his retirement, Van Barneveld opened up about his heartbreaking exit from the sport and insisted it’s now time to move on.
“In that moment it felt like my heart had jumped out of my body,” said Barney. “I was so gone, I couldn’t believe it. The whole year I was struggling and I’m thinking I will get it right at the worlds and then Darin Young beat me with that tops, and I’m thinking ‘wow, this is it’.
“It was very hard for me. That interview on Sky – not great, I know that, but at the end that was the way I felt. I was so down, I was really depressed but I’m okay now. It cost me three or four weeks.
“I said to myself: ‘Ray, you have to move on. This is not the way people must remember you’. I’m a five-time world champion and we have to move forward. We are doing these exhibition nights and I’m okay with it.”
Van Barneveld announced in November 2018 that he would walk away from the sport following the 2020 PDC World Championship and although his fairy-tale farewell did not materialise, he showed signs of a resurgence towards the latter stages of the year.
The Den Haag ace stormed into the final of the NZ Masters during the summer, before reaching back-to-back quarter-finals at the World Series Finals and the Players Championship Finals. Van Barneveld headed to Alexandra Palace with optimism, but fate conspired against him.
“It was like a punch from a boxer in the corner. Remember when I went back to the Premier League, when I got relegated in Rotterdam and I said I’m going to give up. Sometimes I wish I had done that.
“I was still keeping these voices ‘ No, no, it will become great, we’re going to do the World Championship and maybe a good run’ and at the end it never happened. It was really tough, it was really hard.
“Then from January 1st I said ‘Okay Ray, let’s not look back, look to the future.’ I’ve had a fantastic career and we never know what the future brings so I’m going to focus on exhibition nights like these and I love these nights.”
Although RvB is no longer competing on the professional circuit, he will be renewing his iconic rivalry with 16-time world champion Phil Taylor in 2020, with the pair set to feature in a series of exhibition events throughout the United Kingdom over the course of the next 12 months.
Van Barneveld drew first blood in this year’s Icons of Darts Tour, beating Taylor 5-4 in Cardiff on Friday, having also beaten Wayne Mardle earlier in the evening. The Dutchman admitted he was still adjusting to ‘retirement’, although he’s adamant he made the right decision.
“For the first time in my career, playing darts for 35 years, I don’t belong to an organisation anymore, not to the BDO, not to the PDC. I can make my own plans now but it’s strange. My whole life – my biggest love was darts. I’m 52 now, I started playing when I was 16 or 17 years of age.
“I’m still playing but not in competitions anymore. That is weird, but at the end I think I made the right decision. I was winning tournaments every year. If you don’t win them for one year, you’re okay. The second year you start thinking ‘what is going on?’.
“The third year you start panicking and the fourth year you start thinking what am I doing here? Then I said okay this is it. If I don’t win tournaments anymore, I don’t want to enter tournaments losing first or second round. I’m not the kind of person that can deal with it.”
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