In 2011 Marcel de Jong was promoted to the Bundesliga with Augsburg, and today the 33-year-old plays for Pacific FC in the Canadian Premier League. In an interview with FCA, the Dutchman spoke about his time at Augsburg, the Canadian Premier League – and bears on Vancouver Island.
Good morning, Marcel. It’s just turned 9AM. Whereabouts have I caught you?
I’m at home, I’ve eaten breakfast and I’m ready for the day.
Training and then for my family! The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has also stopped our league here in Canada. We get individual training schedules from our coaches every day. We’ll start training as a team again soon.
It’s been almost half a year since your last competitive game for Pacific FC in October 2019.
Yes, unfortunately. Here we start the season in the Spring, and it should have started again in mid-April.
Pacific FC is based in Langford, a city in the southwest of Canada, with 35,000 inhabitants.
More specifically on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, but the island itself is larger than all of the Netherlands. Vancouver is very close and it’s not too far away from the USA.
Everything sounds very nice there.
It is. I live by the sea, there’s a lot of lakes in the area, forests and mountains too. Very pure nature.
(laughs) Yeah, there’s some bears here too, but thank God I haven’t met one yet.
How are you dealing with the coronavirus crisis?
We have very few Covid-19 cases here. British Columbia is in a good situation with only 2000 confirmed cases, while in Quebec they have it very different with 50,000 cases and in Ontario they have 25,000 cases.
Besides Dutch citizenship, you also have Canadian citizenship.
My parents are both Dutch and moved to Canada many years ago. I was born there, but moved back to the Netherlands when I was three.
It was an indescribable feeling.
And there you played with PSV Eindhoven’s junior side.
Yes, I played for PSV for eight years and came through all the youth teams there. I was Dutch champions with the U17 side. The PSV Academy is one of the best in The Netherlands. When I was 18 I moved to Helmond Sport in the second tier of Dutch football, and two years later I played in the Eredivisie with Roda JC Kerkrade, with whom I played 115 games.
In 2010 you left the Eredivisie to join FC Augsburg in the 2. Bundesliga. Why?
It was a goal of mine to play in Germany, and preferably in the Bundesliga. FCA were an up-and-coming club and their then-coach Jos Luhukay presented me with their plan, and convinced me.
At that time, there were a lot of Dutch players at the club. Besides Jos Luhukay, there were Rob Reekers, Paul Verhaegh and Gibril Sankoh at the club.
Yeah, and later on there was Kees Kwakman, Lorenzo Davids and Jonas de Roeck. Although, he was Belgian, so only half Dutch. (he laughs). I found that a huge advantage and really helped me get settled in. But after a year I could communicate very well in German.
Your second division adventure was short-lived.
Our goal was promotion and getting there was anything but easy. But we had a brilliant squad and finally made it. I’ll never forget that year.
May 8th, 2011…
The game against Frankfurt and promotion! I will never forget this date as long as I live. 85th minute, Michael Thurk takes the corner and somehow Stephan Hain gets it over the line for the matchwinner. After that there was an indescribable feeling.
It was an historic moment for FCA, for Augsburg and for the whole region.
For the rest of that week we were all living in a trance. First the party after the game, then later the parade with thousands of fans on the Rathausplatz. I think it went on like that for a whole week, it was sensational.
I had the best time at Augsburg, I got married there.
After another four years in the Bundesliga with FCA you made the move to the USA although you had offers from Europe.
The MLS has always been an option for me. It was a perfect time for a new challenge. The offer from Sporting Kansas City came just at the right time and I was able to embark on a new adventure with my family.
After Kansas City came moves to clubs Ottawa Fury, Vancouver Whitecaps and now Pacific FC. What was your experience in the MLS like?
The league was really well-organised. I have to admit, I did underestimate them at the start a little bit. In Europe the game is a lot faster and with a greater emphasis on tackling, but technically it’s at a high level. The away games are exhausting, you’re always travelling by plane and sometimes you are away for up to three days for one away game.
How well do you deal with the different time zones?
It was a bit problematic at first, but you get used to it. We maintain our biorhythms, despite the time zone changes. For example, if we have a three-hour time difference, we eat breakfast at 8AM instead of 11AM. That’s how we deal with meals and rest. We can offset some of the effects by doing this.
You played 56 games for Canada and have done well internationally. They were often played against exotic opponents like Mauritania, Guyana, Curacao or Bermuda.
Through World-Cup Qualifiers or certain other tournaments you get to play against these teams. I really enjoyed these trips, it was always a great experience seeing different countries, meeting different people and experiencing different cultures.
You’re 33 years old. Do you think about what to do after your career ends or are you intending to play until you’re 40?
I intend to play for maybe two or three more years. Last season I tore my Achilles and I was out for a year. But now I’m fit again and am ready for action. But after that I’ll keep an eye on my career after that. I recently joined Pacific FC in the junior division as a coach and I really enjoy it. I want to get my coaching certificates and continue in that vein.
Do you still follow Augsburg?
Yeah of course, I follow all the news on Facebook and Instagram and I watch the games whenever I can. I had the best time at Augsburg of my career so far, I got married there, my child was born there, and I had sporting success there. A year and a half ago we went back there and went to visit several friends. FCA will always be in my heart.