Interview By: Kendra Lee
Name: Marcel De Jong
Birthplace: Newmarket, Ontario
Club Team: Ottawa Fury FC
National Team Appearances: 45
You started to play with the Canadian National Team on the U-17 squad. How did you decide to play for Canada?
Well, it’s a funny story. When I played at PSV [in the youth system], I also played on the Dutch Team’s under-11, under-12, 13, 14. Then at one point my mom actually called or sent an email to the Canadian Federation saying “There’s this guy who plays in Holland, and he has a Canadian passport.” I never knew about it, she told me about this a couple of years later. So she sent an email and they responded and they did their homework and checked me out. And Stephen Hart, at that time he was the under-17 coach, he flew over to Holland and watched me play a game at PSV and had dinner at our house. And we just met and it was pretty cool! And so ever since I started playing for Canada. But when I was 20, I also got an invitation for the Holland under-21s. So I was like, “What am I going to do?” I played there for a couple of games and tried it out. But before you’re 21 you have to make a choice between Holland or Canada, and in my mind I was just like “ah, let’s go for Canada.”
Just like that!
Yeah, my first cap with Canada was in a stadium in Mexico, Guadalajara, I was like “Wow! Where am I? It’s unbelievable!” I was a 16 year old guy and I was like “Yeah, I like this!” There’s always nice trips and nice people. I always have fun going with the National Team.
During the time you’ve been in the system, what changes have you noticed?
Well, there’ve been a couple of new coaches, different coaches. When I started, I was one of the young guys and now I’m one of the older ones and a little bit more experienced. We’re going in a whole new direction with Benito, very different than Stephen Hart. And it’s become a lot more professional now in the last couple of years even with the medical staff and the management. It’s been a good step in the right direction. If you look at our game in Vancouver against Mexico and Honduras, all of those fans, it’s been amazing! It was intense and it’s growing in every aspect. The soccer and the management, the fans, everything is growing. It’s really good.
What do you think of the new players now coming in vs when you started?
I like the new players, I don’t know if the old players liked me when I came in *laughs*…but I like what I see for the future. These guys have some good talent. You can even see with the couple of players who finally made the decision to play for Canada, Junior Hoillett and Scott Arfield, that shows that it’s getting bigger.
What do you think is the team’s biggest strength?
I think the work ethic collectively. Benito makes sure our defensive shape is in tact to be tough to beat and I think we showed everybody, except that Mexico game of course, I think we showed all the other teams that we played in the last couple of months that we’re just a tough team to beat and that’s one of our strengths I think.
You’re in the middle of World Cup Qualifiers right now. What are your expectations for this WC?
Obviously we’re in a good spot now. We have a tough game in Honduras. If we can get a result there, it’s just one of those matches, if we get a good result we can go to the World Cup. I’m pretty sure. I mean that’s going to be one of the biggest games. I’m pretty sure if we win this or tie it, if we don’t lose then I think we’ll go to the World Cup.
If there were a Canadian League, would you consider playing in an all Canadian League?
Yes. Yeah, of course, definitely. I think it’s also huge for Canada. Also politically, if we ever want to host a big tournament we need our own league. I think it’s also good for my experience as well. If you want to live in Canada, maybe I can be a head coach somewhere, like, I don’t know, Saskatchewan United or something, it would be an option. You know play in the league for a couple of years and then work in a club somewhere. I’ve just heard the rumours, but what I’ve heard is that it’s going to happen in the next year or years, which is good I think.