We sat down with Sydney FC marquee man Siem de Jong to discuss his footballing journey to date. Hear from the Dutchman below...
My idols growing up as football players were Dennis Bergkamp and Jari Litmanen at Ajax. I enjoyed watching them, they were really good players and played in the position I focused on as a youngster, that second striker’s role.
I started playing with the local professional team when I was 10 or 11. It was with my local side, called De Graafschap, they play in the top league in Holland now as well. I played there for five years in the Academy. It was good growing up and playing there, everything was close to home, I could go to school and then get on my bike and go to training. I could do everything on my bike, go to school in the morning and then train in the evening and I still have a friends from that time as well.
When I was 16 I moved to Ajax. I played in their Academy and when I was 18 I signed my first professional contract. It was a nice feeling, it was good to see all the hard work in the Academy be rewarded. I signed before the summer and joined the second team, and after the summer I joined the first team. It was a good start to my career.
I knew I’d made it around that time. Especially in that winter, after a few months in the first team, I signed a new contract for five years. That, for me, was the finishing touches on not being a youth player anymore.
Eventually I played seven years at Ajax. In my last two seasons I was Captain, that was good. For me it was a nice build up. I started playing as a youth player, coming in the team a few times, and after one and half years I played quite a few games. After those first two years I really earned my spot and played nearly every game, and learned a lot from the captains I played with a lot back then. From my time, the captains were Huntelaar, Suarez, and Vertonghen, I learned a lot from them, so it was a good build up to becoming captain myself.
I didn’t have to change a lot when I became captain. I’m a guy who tries to help my team mates a lot and talk with them, not one that screams at every player. I think I learned a lot from the other players and as a captain you grow into that role. I got more experienced as I got older and played more games.
I think it’s one of the best leagues in the world. The English Premier League is one of the most competitive ones at the top, really physical. I was ready for another step at another club but unfortunately it didn’t work out in my first season with injury which was difficult for me and didn’t help me get as many games as I’d hoped. The second season I played quite a few games, more coming off the bench than starting, but after the two years I thought it’d be necessary to go somewhere else and play more games and that’s what I did. I don’t regret my move to England, it’s one of the most competitive leagues in the world, so for me to have played there I think it was a good experience that I learned from.
Representing the Netherlands was an honour. I think my last season at Ajax was my best, I had a few international caps, and most of the games available I was selected for the national team. I didn’t always play but was almost always selected in the squad.
Sydney FC came about because I wanted to play more games. Last season at Ajax I didn’t play as much as I hoped, but when the opportunity came for me to play at Sydney FC, the manager and club having a lot of confidence in me to play here was important. I think as a player if you get bought or if the club wants you, you always get the chance to improve yourself. That’s important for me and I think it’s been a good move. We’re halfway through the season, getting better every week and eventually we want to win the league at the end of the season. For me that’s an important goal.
I don’t think the culture is too different from the culture in Europe. For me adapting to living here was quite easy. This was a really good option for my family as well, the only thing is that it’s very far from where we live but that doesn’t matter anymore. It’s a really nice city to live in and we enjoy living here, you don’t have to worry about things off the pitch, just what’s on the pitch here.
My favourite career moment was the final game of the season against Twente in 2011. That was when I won my first title with Ajax. It was the last game of the season playing against the side coming first in the league, basically a Grand Final without the playoffs, number two against number one. We won the game 3-1 and I scored two goals in it so for me that was a really great day. I’ll remember that one for a long time.