When Stephen Hart was first named as the full Head Coach for the Canadian Men’s National Team one of his initial stated goals was to build more depth on the team and to create a competitive environment in terms of having players competing for playing time at every position on the pitch. With the continued of evolution of Marcel de Jong into a top flight player in addition to established veteran Mike Klukowski, left back looks to be a solid position of strength for Canada.
At 24 years of age, De Jong has been capped 16 times by Canada at the senior level and he looks like he will be a core player for the national team for years to come. The Newmarket, Ontario born player is going into the 2011 Gold Cup fresh off a very successful first year in Germany at the club level, after playing solely in the Netherland previously.
“It was a goal of mine to play in Germany. I think it was pretty tough to adapt because of a different style of play and a different mentality. But after a couple of months, I was settled, feeling well and doing my thing over there. I have enjoyed it,” says De Jong.
Hart has always stated that it is his preference that his players be competing at the highest professional levels possible and, in that sense, De Jong’s move to Germany has been one that has benefited him greatly as a young player who is still improving and developing.
“In Holland the football is very technical and in Germany it was more about the fighting and competing with the big guys there. I think I have grown over there.”
De Jong’s Canada teammate Simeon Jackson has rightfully been receiving many plaudits over the last few weeks due to the part he played in his English side Norwich earning promotion from the English Championship to the English Premier League. However, he was not the only Canadian International who played an important role in his side earning a move up to the first division of one of the top leagues in Europe.
De Jong was a regular starter for FC Augsburg, which recently earned promotion from the 2 Bundesliga to the German First Division along with fellow Canadian International Rob Friend and Hertha Berlin. And the former PSV youth product believes that having players competing at the highest levels in European club football can only benefit the Canadian Men’s National Team.
“Of course, it always better to have more players playing in the first divisions in England, Germany and elsewhere. I think it is a win-win situation.”
When asked what his primary goals are for his maiden foray in the German Bundesliga, De Jong quickly emphasizes team goals while at the same time being realistic about the ongoing concerns of anyone who makes their living as a professional athlete.
“We have to survive and stay in the first Bundesliga. For me personally, I want to play well in every game. It is the last year of my contract, so I think it is just important for me to do well.”
With his club career going well in Europe, De Jong also sees good days ahead for Canada at the International level.
“I think we have a good group and, especially next season, we will have more guys playing at the highest levels in Europe, which will help us with playing in the qualifiers for the World Cup. I think we have a good group and I think we have a good chance to do well at the Gold Cup as well.”