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Van Barneveld admits “I will never forgive myself” after ending career with shock First Round exit at the World Championship

Jamie Shaw in World Championship Interviews 15 Dec 2019
conference (Photo by Lawrence Lustig/PDC)

A raw Raymond van Barneveld admitted “I will never forgive myself” after crashing out of his final World Championship in the First Round.

Van Barneveld’s meeting with American qualifier Darin Young proved to be the legendary Dutchman’s final professional outing as he suffered a 3-1 loss in a nightmare end to his illustrious career.

The five-time World Champion had received a hero’s reception from the crowd as he made his way on to the sport’s most iconic stage but the night was to end with a cruel defeat.

Van Barneveld was inconsolable in his post-match media conference, admitting: “I’ve felt really good for the past couple of weeks but the demons won again.

“I lost First Round in my disaster year and I will never forgive myself.

“I had chances, he hit a fantastic 160 finish, I fought back but I never ever felt comfortable.

“For the last two years, losing the first game, you’re an amateur and you don’t belong at this high level anymore and that’s how I’ll feel for the rest of my life.

“I will hate myself every single day.

“I don’t know what I could have done more? Play less exhibition games, more practice?

“I had practice sessions arranged with Jeffrey de Zwaan but we couldn’t do this because Jeffrey would have been my second match.”

Van Barneveld, who initially announced his plans to retire in November 2018, had drafted in his former nemesis Phil Taylor for a series of practice sessions in the build-up to the sport’s show-piece and had also shown signs of resurgence in a run to the Quarter-Finals of the recent Players Championship Finals.

However, a slow start amid a partisan atmosphere at Ally Pally saw Young silence the crowd by taking the first set.

Van Barneveld battled back by taking the second set 3-0 but lost the crucial fifth leg in set three to leave himself staring defeat in the face.

The American ace landed a killer blow with a stunning 160 checkout on the way to taking the first two legs in the fourth set before Barney forced a decider – only to miss two darts to take the tie to fifth set, which his opponent punished to inflict a devastating loss.

Van Barneveld, a pioneer of Dutch darts who also won the Grand Slam, Premier League and two UK Opens during a glittering career spanning more than three decades, refused to acknowledge his past achievements as he held back the tears backstage.

“That’s in the past, it doesn’t matter,” he added.

“I will never forget or forgive myself for this performance – it has been a nightmare end to a nightmare year.

“I was surprised, nothing more than that. I don’t belong at the top level anymore.”

One of the greatest players of the modern era, Van Barneveld is one of only three players to have won five world titles.

He won the BDO world title at Lakeside in 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2005 before moving to the PDC and beating Phil Taylor in the 2007 world final to form an iconic rivalry which spanned the next decade.

The former world number one won 29 PDC titles and also became the first player to achieve a nine-dart finish in both the Premier League (2006) and the PDC World Championship (2009).