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On February 19 Marcel de Jong joined Pacific FC for their inaugural season.
Less than a month later, the former Vancouver Whitecaps fullback suffered an Achilles injury during training camp and is unable to play – but vows to come back.
In the summer of 2005, he played for the U-20 Canadian national team at the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands.
In 2007, de Jong chose to play for Team Canada instead of the Netherlands and scored his first goal for Canada during a 2–2 draw against Costa Rica in July of 2009.
He is considered a defender who can step into a midfield position and is a proficient passer and is fast on his feet.
Before signing with Pacific FC, he spent the previous seasons with the Whitecaps following stops at Sporting Kansas City and the Ottawa Fury. The 32-year-old’s professional career includes 250 appearances with top tier clubs throughout Europe and North America.
Christopher Kelsall: How did you get into soccer initially as a kid? What other sports did you take up?
Marcel de Jong: I grew up in the Netherlands and all they do is play soccer when you are young, so I wasn’t any different. But I also did about eight years of taekwondo and was pretty good at it.
I was two-time European Champion and finished third in the world. Obviously in my weight class, but it was still pretty cool. But once soccer got more intense, I had to give up taekwondo and focus on soccer only.
CK: When was that seminal moment when you decided, that’s it, I am going to take soccer seriously and see how far I can go with it?
MD: I was around nine years old when I started playing for the Academy of PSV Eindhoven and after about eight years, they told me they didn’t see any future at the club for me so I had to leave the academy. That was when I was 16 I believe. But a week later I went to play for a second league team and a couple of months later, when I was 17, I made my debut and played almost every game, which gave me a true shot of becoming a pro.
CK: You are purported to be a fullback who can step into the midfield. Sounds like you are perhaps a visual player and can serve the ball up to outside players on the move, yes? Is that your style?
MD: Yes, I think that’s well said. I believe I am the type of player who loves to get the ball with the entire field in front of me. So, I can have good distribution and connect with my winger and I love to overlap him and put in a cross.
CK: How did the Whitecaps program help with your development?
MD: Can’t really say they helped me in my development as a player that all happened in Europe. But the Whitecaps did help me by making me feel comfortable in BC and made me feel like I could get used to living in this area for a longer period of time.
CK: Pacific FC seems to be signing plenty of players who are from the west or have played in BC. How important to do you think this is for the fledgling team to establish a core fan base?
MD: I think we need to make sure we’re creating an environment that all BC-based players are looking up to us, and truly understand that they have a legit chance of making it to the team if they’re good enough. Plus, we are an island team and need to stick together and show everyone who we are. And who knows that better than guys that are from BC.
CK: Unfortunately, you are injured for the inaugural season. How fit were you at camp before the injury?
MD: I was flying. I was fit and ready to rock and roll. So, the injury came as a shock. But I’m positive about my recovery process so hopefully, I can get back training with the guys soon, so I can get back out there helping the team in any way I can. There are more ways for me to put my mark on the team and be important for Pacific FC.
CK: From the sidelines, does hanging out at practise motivate you for when you are healthy again or is it tough to watch?
MD: It’s tough to see the guys training and doing what I love. But like I said there are more ways for me to be important for the team. Now I see the game from a different perspective and hopefully, I can help the team with my experience while being on sidelines.
CK: Can you describe the nature of the injury? How did it happen?
MD: So, I ruptured my Achilles during practice. It was really an innocent play. A cross came in from the left side of the field and I went up for a header and when I landed it snapped and I knew right away something’s wrong. The pain was pretty bad it just felt like someone was standing on my calf while I was getting treatment.
CK: Can you describe what it is like to play in The Netherlands and Germany versus Canada’s national team and the Whitecaps?
MD: Playing in the Netherlands and Germany was something special. Soccer in Europe is a religion and all the kids look up to you and want to be just like you. Young kids, all they do is play soccer, so there is a huge focus on the development of teaching the kids the right way of playing the game.
Playing for and in front of the biggest teams in Germany is crazy and truly awesome.
Playing against all the top players was special and something that helped me become a better player.
Playing for Canada is an honour and something that I’m extremely proud of. Almost 60 times playing for your national team representing your country – it’s special.
I’m grateful that I played for the Whitecaps. Because of the Whitecaps, we feel like we found a new home. We fell in love with BC and can’t see us living anywhere else. Playing with the Whitecaps was a great experience and I had so much fun and made a lot of friends and look back at that with nothing but respect and wish them all the best going forward and from now on I will be a fan instead of a player.