Marcel de Jong, born in Canada but with strong roots to his Dutch ancestral homeland, grew up with a cleat in both sporting cultures.
Having recently retired as captain of Island-based Pacific FC of the Canadian Premier League, he has embarked on his post-playing as a development coach using a European model. Football Fundament, which holds its first Island camp today at 4 p.m. inside the Commonwealth Games velodrome in Colwood, will stress fundamentals.
“Most organizations put their best coaches on the older age groups. It should be the opposite. The best coaches should be assigned to the younger age groups at the grassroots level,” said de Jong, who made 250 Premiership appearances in the German Bundesliga and Dutch Eredivisie as part of his 17-year pro career.
That’s why his co-ed camps are for seven to 12-year-olds only, added the 56-time Canada capped defender, who also played three seasons with the Vancouver Whitecaps in MLS, before concluding his career on the Island in two seasons with PFC.
De Jong noted this is a model practised by top European Premiership clubs, which invite players into their academy programs at a young age.
“We can pass promising players along to the Whitecaps and PFC programs,” said de Jong, president of the Canadian players’ union, known as the Professional Footballers Association of Canada.
More than 40 youth players have signed up for today’s Island camp. A few spots remain open at footballfundament.com. Players must be seven to 12 years old. More than 70 young players signed up for last week’s inaugural camp on the Lower Mainland. The camps are compliant with the current Phase I provincial sports restrictions and guidelines.
Others involved with de Jong in Football Fundament include Saudi Arabia U-19 head coach Damien Hertog, former academy director of Dutch Premiership club Feyenoord, Johan Henkes, CEO of Dotcomsport, and former Vancouver Whitecaps residency program head coach and technical director Richard Grootscholten, now executive director of Polish Premiership giant Legia Warsaw.
“We know Canada will be hosting the World Cup in 2026, and that the communities in Canada have an undeniable passion for the sport,” said Grootscholten.
“From my time at Vancouver Whitecaps, I understand the needs of Canadian soccer, and grassroots soccer is definitely an area that needs development.”