When cycling started again, his words danced on paper

He wrote on the first page of his autobiography: “Time is a silent killer from whom I cannot escape,” Camps 75 – A Life of Toner, Nylon and Massage Oil. Hugo Camps passed away one summer day in the fall, at the age of 79. Last Saturday in his hometown Knokke, where he lived near the sea with his wife Martin. Active in Belgium throughout his working life as an ardent journalist/columnist, until his death by latest news (Last month, another memory of former Anderlecht manager Michael Verschoren), in the Netherlands he made sports columns for NRC Handelsblad (1993-2019) and has been active for a longer period as an interviewer and columnist in Elsevier Weekly Magazine. He has written books – mainly about his favorite sport of cycling and football, but also about Belgium, France, successful entrepreneurs and women. Love, beauty and death – those were the main themes of the Hugo camps.

Nearly ten years ago, the Flemish writer and columnist was already teetering on the brink of death, after a medical error during what should have been a routine operation. Camps would not have been camps if he had not been captivated by the misery of those days: “My sick bed suddenly became the honorary inn of which I had seen all my life. All kinds of people who died long ago came to say hello to me. Scenes from my autobiography.” To Ivo Niehe, who visited him in 2019, Camps said he’s only been half a body since then. He had an artificial kidney and was struggling with his health. But in his mind he was still petty. His eyes glowed as soon as he talked about “The harrowing experiences of happiness,” often in relation to women. “A woman must be a mystery, and a woman must be a mystery, and yes, then you can dream.” He emphasized that desire is always more beautiful than possession.

I read here Farewell to Diego Maradona by Hugo Camps

high quality list

Hearing designer Hugo Camps speak and read his articles, not many people can get enough of it. Of course, he had not only fans, but also readers and viewers who did not like his baroque style, how in a few sentences he nailed athletes and politicians to the cross or paid tribute to unparalleled lyrical descriptions. From the 75th camp: “The column is magnified. Ugly.” He felt like a “manager of provocation”, as well as an interlocutor.

Cycling was his sport, and there was no better season for camping than spring. When the Omloop, the first big race of the year, came along, it came back to life. “The classic put an end to the silent panic of winter,” as he himself described in the preface to one of his books, Determine in happiness. Interviews with cycling champions (2007). His words danced on paper, especially in early spring.

In addition to his readers, his work has also been recognized with a Royal Award (Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau) and in 2016 with the Jean Nelissen Award, named after a deceased former cycling journalist, presented at a special evening in Maastricht by President Ex-minister and cycling fanatic Dries van Agt. The trophy was given a prominent place in his living room, alongside the collected accounts from his best friend, author and artist Hugo Klaus.

The Word Camps artist has had many friends in sports, the cultural world, journalism and politics. There was always good food and drink outside the door. He wrote at Camps 75: “The best quality menu. The ritual of going to the restaurant: my worship. Aperitif, good food, nice wine.” He also preferred to meet for interviews in a good restaurant, and the reader should know this. From one of his columns: „Spring 2003. We were sitting in a restaurant: sports director Patrick Lefevre, Frank Vandenbock and presenter. Patrick and I stuck to a simple scallop, painted by Frank Caviar. He chose the wine: Vieux Certan.

Hugo’s Camps (2003)
Photo Jos Lammers / HH

Despite the wealth of his circle of friends, Camps scored twice as a family man. His first marriage failed and he claims to have let his two daughters down. He was happy with his second wife, Martin.


Hugo Camps and his twin sister Lily were born on May 12, 1943, in Molenstede, in Flemish Brabant near Diest. Hugo literally had to be cut off from his mother. She continued to suffer from the wound and eventually lost her uterus to cancer, he wrote in Camps 75. “I was often thrown in the face later: ‘You’re the culprit.’ At the age of nine he had to go to boarding school. His father, a counselor in Boerenbond, By handing it there in his Opel Kadett.

Since young Hugo, unlike other boys, did not have “satin cheekbones”, he was not abused during his “imprisonment”. Because he was only allowed to go home once every six weeks, sometimes only three months later, he said he grew up without emotion. “Then you make a wreck,” he told Ivo Nehi. “A nine-year-old without foreplay, from his mother, his sister, from whatever – she was mutilated.” The reason why he pursued the women later, longing for a “gesture, for foreplay”.

Also read this interview with Hugo Camps when he said goodbye to NRC in 2019: “I am the echo chamber of the wounded man”

Chile and Vietnam

At the University of Leuven (Thomistic Philosophy, Oriental Religious Studies, Political and Social Sciences) he already had journalistic ambitions. As a freelance journalist, he ended up at Het Laatste Nieuws where he was allowed to write about sports, followed by a permanent position as a reporter in Brussels at Importance of Limburg, after his military service (as a public relations man for the general). He was associated with “Het Belang” until 1986, from reporter in conflict and war zones (Chile, then Czechoslovakia, and Vietnam) to editor-in-chief, a position in which he utterly failed. and in the Netherlands for NRC and Elsevier.

As the “godfather of the pillar”, like his former employer the morning When contacted, he often wrote about cycling and football, but he also photographed icons from other sports such as Raymond van Barneveld, Muhammad Ali and Max Verstappen, as often as he could. In beautiful sentences turned his columns into masterpieces. He fought by saying and writing against the demolition of the Olympic stadium in Amsterdam, a “monument that came out of the ground” and “where everything becomes more beautiful than it really is.” He spat in the ring – later named after Johan Cruyff. It was, in his words, “a solid concrete mixer.” When he interviewed or described male athletes, he felt it his duty to put the woman behind the athlete on a pedestal, whether they were Danny (Cruyff), Gia (Brockenck), Bartina (Koman), Anja (Ras), Trouss (van Gaal) or Johanna ( Mulder) or Nini (van Looy). This is always read as a declaration of love.

whiteness of eternity

He wrote in Camps 75 that he hoped in vain that old age would bring him peace of mind. “Well, I am undoubtedly milder and wiser than I was thirty years ago. But it is still an unfinished symphony. It keeps on scratching.” Then there was another big hit. A year later, twenty-six years later, he lost his sports column at NRC Handelsblad.

In his farewell interview in NRC (under the headline “I’m the Echo Chamber of the Injured”), Hugo Camps said he dressed smartly when he sat at his desk in a column on Saturday in NRC. “My clothes had to reflect the beauty of the medium.” When table tennis champion Peten Frisikop called him a few months after his last column appeared to ask “probably the best sports columnist in the Dutch-speaking press” for advice when she herself was a substitute for a sports column in the devotion He let him write, he told her the column was his biorhythm. “Whether I was sick or half-dead, it had to go on. It was a little climax a week, I lived through it, I ensured continuity. Now that the shaft is off, I feel like an amputee, a gap, a target gone.” He also gave her some good advice: stay away from you and try to recover the secret of this sport. His last tip: Never talk about trifles.

We’ve been on the NRC Handelsblad sports pages together for a while — I was a sports reporter at the time and later Head of Sports — when we first met in the summer of 1996. He sat in the back of the press room at the men’s cycling race at the Atlanta Olympics. This was the first time that professional cyclists were allowed to participate in the Games.

The last time we spoke was last spring. He looked weak on the phone. About his health and the very frequent visits to the hospital, the outcome of the Corona years, about the newspaper and inevitably about sports, always in short and precise sentences. About the magic of Real Madrid, which in those days was on the way to winning the Champions League on the basis of the “hat-trick” of Karim Benzema. At the end of the conversation, he brought up another memorable sentence: “You know – the white of Real Madrid, this is the white of Eternity.”

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