Raymond van Barneveld starts Saturday after a dramatic year with setbacks in sporting and private areas full of doubts about the World Cup darts in London. The 52-year-old Dutchman says goodbye to the sport after the tournament. "It's all nice and nice, but at some point you will just be forgotten."

It is at the start of the media day at the Rileys Sports Bar Haymarket in central London when Van Barneveld is asked by the PDC press officer to take a photo with the World Cup trophy. He nods, picks up the heavy thing, gives it a big kiss and puts it back on the ground a few seconds later.

"Of course I thought about my world titles when kissing," Van Barneveld says afterwards sitting on a bar stool at NUsport. "I had to give up all year for my last World Cup. It hurts so much that I didn't qualify for everything to be able to say goodbye to people, but it might also be better if I went to one of those tournaments had performed well, I thought about going on for another year. "

After the achievements of the past twelve months, Van Barneveld maintains his position to stop after the World Cup as a professional darter. He relegated from the Premier League of Darts for the first time and, because he disappeared from the top of the world ranking, did not even grab a ticket for the World Matchplay, the World Grand Prix and the Grand Slam of Darts, among other things.

It resulted in a mental struggle. "This life pulls everything out of me. Every time I have those depressions. If you keep losing, I can keep going for a while, but not years. My last major title (the Premier League of Darts, ed.) Dates from 2014. Believe me, today we live in a society that revolves around winning. I have been walking around this world for the last five years with the idea that I no longer belonged. "

"I long to just be Raymond again"

Van Barneveld's final year can be called turbulent to say the least. A short anthology: his home was burgled and his wife was mistreated, he is in divorce and after his retirement in the Premier League of Darts announced in 'his' Rotterdam Ahoy his goodbye immediately, to be there again the next day to come back to.

But after the World Cup, which starts for him on Saturday with a game against the American Darin Young, it is really finished. "I don't want to continue my life like this. When I lose, it feels like a loved one has died from me. I just want to be Raymond again, I long for that. 21 years ago, when I first became a world champion, I got a mask and that mask can finally go off for once. Play nice grandpa. "

Van Barneveld has tried just about everything to make the tide turn. Haptonomy, hypnosis, EMDR (a therapy that is mainly used in post-traumatic stress disorder), testosterone injections: it could not have been crazy enough. But almost nothing helped. A final place on the New Zealand Darts Masters and a Players Championship, there was no more to this year.

"I ended up in a whirlpool in which I want to grab every excellent hand to get better. If someone says to me tomorrow:" Put on a green sock and then you will win again, "then I put on that sock. I am I lost 35 kilos, but was a better player when I weighed well over 100 kilos. Then I stood a bit more stable on my feet. "

Raymond van Barneveld is being hugged by the fans in Rotterdam Ahoy during the Premier League of Darts. (Photo: Pro Shots)

"I'm signing for second place for the first time in my life"

His bad year ensures that the expectations around Van Barneveld are low for his last World Cup. A sixth world title and a second at the PDC seems miles away. The recent past also offers little support, as he was eliminated in the first round last year by the unknown Lithuanian Darius Labanauskas.

"If I have to sign for reaching the final and then lose it, I will do so immediately. Can you see how desperate I am? I have never called this in my entire life, but this year will make you realistic "I have to prepare myself for it to be a great World Cup. Do the things I did as a seventeen-year-old boy in the attic room. Maybe the passion and the faith will come back."

"If it fails, I hope I can say to myself next year: 'It wasn't all that bad, Ray. Go enjoy it. I'm glad you put the sport on the map." I will never be proud of myself I can build up too much disgust for myself. It is all nice and nice, but at some point you will just be forgotten and then the 'Barney Army' will be finished. "

See also: All results and the schedule of the World Cup darts in London