A storied Canadian soccer career is coming to an end. Pacific FC captain Marcel de Jong announced his retirement this morning after a 17-year-long career that included 56 caps for the senior men’s national team and two seasons on the Island.
The idea that De Jong’s final act would come on Vancouver Island was an inconceivable thought less than 10 years ago when the left-back was racking up Canadian national team caps and bumping shoulders with the Bundesliga elite.
After four seasons in the Dutch Eredivisie, six in the German Bundesliga, and four in Major League Soccer, De Jong’s arrival on the Island in 2019 was unquestionably the biggest signing in Canadian Premier League history at the time and a sign that Pacific FC meant business right from the start.
After making the short trip through the Strait of Georgia after leaving the Vancouver Whitecaps two years ago, De Jong embedded himself and his family on Vancouver Island.
“I will forever be grateful to Pacific for the time I’ve had at the club and on the Island which I will continue to call home,” says De Jong after announcing his retirement.
It simply can’t be understated how massive De Jong’s arrival was for Pacific FC as a club – and the best fans in the league. And those fans made sure he felt at home right away.
“To the fans, I want to thank you for your unconditional support and belief in me! You guys are amazing, the true heart and soul of this club and the reason we do what we do.”
Unfortunately for Pacific FC fans they didn’t get to give their captain the send-off he deserves. A trident-laiden, tifo-filled farewell would have been fitting for the club’s first-ever captain and rock-solid leader who’s solidity and dynamic left-sided attacking play shone through while donning the Pacific FC purple.
In addition to the connection De Jong built with the fans, the 34-year-old’s leadership and experience during his two years on the island proved invaluable to a team focused on #trustthekids.
De Jong’s extensive soccer knowledge from years of national team, European, and MLS experience was present even during the difficult first season he went through after the Achilles tear he suffered in preseason. During matches and on the training pitches De Jong’s voice held special weight for a young team finding its footing without its influential figurehead on the pitch alongside them.
This past season, during The Island Games, De Jong’s leadership qualities were needed again to navigate the difficult bubble conditions. Finally Pacific FC fans were able to see their captain in action in both regular season and playoff matches. Advancing to the second round at The Island Games was a step forward for this young team last season and the base is there for the team to
continue to build. Although that credit doesn’t belong solely to De Jong, his part in helping build that foundation won’t be forgotten on the Island.
In a career that included multiple European stops, there is no shortage of memorable experiences and performances to look back on in De Jong’s career. But the fact that a top-20 most capped men’s national team player found a home on Vancouver Island before the club’s inaugural season will never cease to be amazing.
And perhaps De Jong’s leadership while with Pacific FC gives one of the current “kids” the platform and knowledge to go on and earn 57 caps (one more than De Jong) for the national team in the future.
In the end, trust the kids. But, also give them a world-class leader to be their captain and they’ll be more than alright.