Ajax Captain fantastic’s Swiss Roots

Slow and very ordinary looking; Siem de Jong was offered out on loan by Marco Van Basten to whoever wanted to have him in 2008 but no club was interested. But the following season, he was the revelation in the Arena, scoring so many important goals. De Jong is no Jari Litmanen. Certainly no Wesley Sneijder or Rafael van der Vaart but his 3 goals in 2 UEFA Champions League games against Manchester City have alerted the world of his qualities. The midfielder brings a perfect top sport attitude to the game as he was brought up in a modest sports family.Both his parents were international volleyball stars. He could have been swayed to become a volleyball star if he hadn’t moved back to the Netherlands.

If, at the end of the season, City have a new manager, Siem de Jong’s brace will be one of the main reasons. Siem de Jong’s second goal of the game reminded me of Jari Litmanen. Christian Eriksen’s corner was perfect, Siem only had to head the ball in.That goal was De Jong’s 7th of the season and his 60th in 138 official games for Ajax.Ajax have won 38 out of 46 games in which Siem De Jong has scored,drawn 6 times and lost only twice. 

“Whenever you spot the right moment, speed is relative. I always watched Dennis [Bergkamp] and Jari [Litmannen] play. Their strength was that: seeing the space, recognizing the moment.My movement is modelled on their game.” Siem De Jong

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC

Following the departure of Jan Vertonghen to Tottenham Hotspur, Siem de Jong was named Ajax captain. This season,De Jong has been in great form in the UEFA Champions League scoring once at home against English Champions Manchester City and twice at the Etihad Stadium. De Jong is Ajax topscorer in the UEFA Champions League with 3 goals in 4 games (6 goals in 34 European games) and is the first Dutch player since Nigel de Jong and Wesley Sneijder (2005/06 season) to score at least 3 goals in a UEFA Champions League campaign for Ajax. Nigel de Jong scored 3 goals in 7 games while Sneijder got 4 goals. Wesley Sneijder and Patrick Kluivert are the only Dutch players in Ajax history to score more goals than him. Kluivert scored 5 goals in the 1995/96 season.

THE BOY FROM AIGLE

Born in Aigle in Hôpital Du Chablais, Switzerland to Dutch parents (George De Jong and Loekie Raterink), Siem (23) gew up in ski village Leysin with his family. His parents are two former professional volleyball stars who were well known in the 70′s and 80′s. His mother,Loekie Raterink earned over 90 caps for the Dutch Volleyball national team while his dad George De Jong played 35 times for the Dutch team. George moved to Switzerland with his wife because he saw it as an opportunity to become a player-coach of Zurich.A year later, he was coaching the Junior team and the 1st team with whom he won the Swiss Championship on six occasions. Loekie Raterink continued her volleyball career in Luzern,Switzerland. She was a 3 time Swiss champion with Lausanne and 1 time Swiss champion with Luzern. She quit at the age of 35 after winning another title with Montreux,a team in Switzerland’s lower division.She went on to coach in the 2nd division.

Volleyball was the only sport the De Jongs and the Raterinks knew.George De Jong’s brothers ( Onno and Volko) also played professional volleyball. Loekie Raterink’s twin sister Margot Raterink and brother Pim Raterink were also professional volleyball stars. George De Jong was the technical director of the World Volleyball Federation (FIVB) in Lausanne, Switzerland. He quit his job in 1994 because he could not see eye to eye with then FIVB President Dr Rubén Acosta,the authoritative Mexican and moved thus the De Jong family moved back to the Netherlands in 1995 when Siem was 6-years old, and his younger brother Luuk (Borussia Monchengladbach striker) was four.

Siem De Jong has to thank Dr Rubén Acosta for his football career because if not for him his dad might not have gone back to the Netherlands and his football career never realized. Mr Jizhong Wei of China became the third President in the history of the FIVB in 2008 following the retirement of Dr Rubén Acosta after 24 years as FIVB boss.

GENESIS

The family moved back to Doetinchem, a city and municipality in the east of the Netherlands. Both brothers  started their football careers with Doetinchem amateur side, DZC’68 and were both recruited by De Graafschap. Siem graduated from the same school (het Rietveld Lyceum) as Guus Hiddink, Paul Bosvelt and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, which grants him immediate university access. He has considered studying economics in the near future .

Henk ten Cate gave Siem de Jong his Eredivisie debut in 2007 when he was only 18. The young midfielder made an immediate impact when he replaced Jan Vertonghen (a man he would later succeed as Ajax’s captain). It was as if fate had a hand in Siem de Jong being named Ajax captain.De Jong scored in the 90th minute to rescue a point for Ajax against Sparta Rotterdam as he emulated former Ajax debutants Marco van Basten (1982),Johan Cruijff (1964),Patrick Kluivert,Nordin Wooter (both 1994),Tarik Oulida (1993), Clyde Wijnhard (1993), Marciano Vink (1988), Ronald de Boer (1987) and Bryan Roy (1987). That season Siem scored twice in 27 games for Ajax.

The following season,De Jong was not able to reach the level he was before as injuries had robbed him of his best form and Ajax wanted to loan him out but no team came for him. Marco Van Basten resigned as coach of Ajax at the end of that season and that was an opportunity for Siem to impress  interim manager John van ‘t Schip.

REVELATION

During the beginning of the 2009/10 season, de Jong was mostly used as a ‘super sub’ and only started in Europa League games.Martin Jol clearly didn’t know how to use de Jong. Siem played as a right full back,left midfielder and a ‘false 9’ before the winter break. With Siem de Jong in the squad, Ajax’s comeback to the top of the standings was initiated by Jol offering De Jong a starting role after the winter break. Ajax won 14 consecutive games as Siem De Jong scored 8 times in those games.He scored the winner in the last few minutes of extra time to send Ajax through to the semifinals of the KNVB Dutch Cup. Siem De Jong scored 4 times in the 2 legged KNVB Dutch Cup final against Feyenoord. Siem won the KNVB Cup with Ajax but lost the Eredivisie title to FC Twente. He was named the Eredivisie’s young player of the year as he scored 17 goals in 35 games for Ajax.

Adrie Koster, who worked as interim successor to Henk Ten Cate in 2007 : “I saw De Jong as an alternative to Wesley Sneijder. He sees the game, has depth, a good shot with left and right. He can head the ball too, Wesley couldn’t. Actually, Siem de Jong can do a lot!”.

In May 2011,De Jong scored twice in the Eredivisie title-decider against FC Twente and helped Ajax win their first (and 30th overall) title since 2004.

The secret of De Jong’s success is his versatility. Able to play in a variety of positions: attacking midfielder, striker and number 10.Last season, he often found himself playing upfront due to several injuries to Kolbeinn Sigþórsson,Miralem Sulejmani and Mounir El Hamdaoui’s demotion to the reserves. De Jong scored both goals against VVV Venlo helping Ajax retain the Eredivisie title.

De Jong’s talent for finding the back of the net will be a vital weapon for Frank De Boer in Ajax’s last two crucial UEFA Champions League games against Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid. It takes a while for the average fan to notice Siem’s talent.

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