Raymond van Barneveld enjoyed a fitting farewell in Amsterdam on Saturday evening, as he won a star-studded exhibition event at the renamed ‘Barney Dome’ alongside his fellow countryman and former Arsenal and Man United striker – Robin van Persie.
3,000 fans packed into the AFAS Live to pay tribute to the departing five-time world champion, who was joined by five darting legends with whom he enjoyed many battles in the past – Phil Taylor, Martin Adams, Richie Burnett, Wayne Mardle and Bobby George.
The six darting juggernauts were paired with six Dutch celebrities and Van Barneveld and Van Persie formed a formidable partnership, whilst Mardle was joined by former Real Madrid and Tottenham midfielder Rafael van der Vaart, who competed in a BDO event in Denmark last year.
Kick boxer Rico Verhoeven joined forces with 1995 BDO world champion Burnett, as 16-time world champion Taylor was paired with singer Elise van der Horst. Three-time BDO world champion Adams competed alongside actor Soundos, whilst Bobby George and model Bobbi Eden teamed up.
Van Barneveld and Van Persie won their group with victories over Bobby George and Martin Adams and their respective partners, whilst Burnett and Verhoeven topped Group A with wins over Mardle/Van der Vaart and Taylor/Van der Horst.
This set up a finale featuring both Burnett and Van Barneveld, who locked horns in the 1995 and 1998 BDO World Championship finals – Burnett winning the first of those encounters before Barney gained revenge to lift his maiden crown three years later.
The Welshman struck first in the final, landing a stunning 146 checkout to hit the front. However, Van Barneveld fired back with two maximums in the final two legs, as he pinned double 16 and then double eight to secure glory for the Dutch duo.
Following the conclusion of Saturday’s exhibition, Van Barneveld took to the microphone to pay tribute to the capacity crowd at the AFAS Live, as he reflected on the culmination of one of the most glittering careers within the sport.
“35 years is now coming to an end”, Van Barneveld admitted. “It all went really crazy. Try to put yourself on the map to unprecedented heights and deep valleys, but then get up again, like Rocky Balboa. Getting hit, but then getting up again. That has been very recognisable in my career.
“I could never have done this without you. Everywhere I played, from Lakeside, more and more orange came into the room. More and more and more, until the room was completely coloured in Rotterdam. Those are moments that you find incredible,” he added.
“When I was a boy of 14 or 15 years, I was very insecure. I wasn’t sure what would happen to me until I got hold of three darts. From then on I had a vision and a goal,” Van Barneveld continued.
“And that is what I want to give you. Sometimes life is disappointing. Sometimes it is not always easy. But if you have faith in yourself, you can do everything. My dear grandmother always said that. You can achieve anything if you want it. And I did that. “
The 52-year-old also received a number of surprises and tributes throughout the evening, one of which was a gift from his former rival Taylor. “He gave me his arrows. That is very valuable and a gesture of respect. I will keep those arrows for the rest of my life. Really fantastic.”
Main Photo Credit: ANP
BarneyDome – Group A
Richie Burnett/Rico Verhoeven 2-0 Phil Taylor/Elise van der Horst
Richie Burnett/Rico Verhoeven 2-0 Wayne Mardle/Rafael van der Vaart
Wayne Mardle/Rafael van der Vaart 2-1 Phil Taylor/Elise van der Horst
BarneyDome – Group B
Raymond van Barneveld/Robin van Persie 2-1 Bobby George/Bobbi Eden
Martin Adams/Soundos 2-0 Bobby George/Bobbi Eden
Raymond van Barneveld/Robin van Persie 2-0 Martin Adams/Soundos
Raymond van Barneveld/Robin van Persie 2-1 Richie Burnett/Rico Verhoeven