Tales of teams past | Siem de Jong: 'I will send this picture to Vertonghen'

Siem De Jong Teamfoto
Siem De Jong Teamfoto

Siem de Jong starts laughing as he holds the championship photo of Ajax U19 from the 2005/2006 season. "These are funny photos you brought with you. I recognise a lot of those guys. I was allowed to join the U19 team for the last matches of the season, even the championship game."


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De Jong was born on January 28, 1989, in Switzerland. There, the midfielder started playing soccer at the age of five. "As a little boy, I started playing soccer when we still lived in Switzerland. It was a small club. When I was six, we moved to the Netherlands, and I immediately joined an amateur club there. You could see that I quickly made progress, but not with the idea of a professional career. At eleven, I was scouted by De Graafschap. I played there for five years until Ajax asked if I wanted to play in Amsterdam. Ajax had already shown interest a few years before my transfer, but then I decided with my parents to stay in Doetinchem."

The midfielder immediately felt at home but decided to continue living where he grew up. "I was supposed to stay with a host family and attend school in Amsterdam. That step was difficult for me, also because I got mononucleosis. So I decided to keep living in Doetinchem."

"Luckily, school was going well, making combining travel, school, and soccer easy. I completed my high school education in my first two years at Ajax. Although I travelled almost four hours a day, it felt like a form of relaxation. It was something I never struggled with."

De Jong describes himself as a fairly calm boy who was present on the field. He adapted quickly and had a good rapport with his teammates. "I started in the U17, but towards the end of the season, I was allowed to play a few matches with the U19. They were in a good position, and I even played in the championship match. With the U19, we became champions well ahead of Feyenoord, while things were not going as well with the U17. It was very special for me to be on the field with those older boys. And honestly, I secretly looked up to a few of them."

Stong team
With a photo of the championship in his hand, he looks back at his teammates from that time. He later achieved success with some of them in the Ajax first team. "In the U19, you had players like Jan Vertonghen, Gregory van der Wiel, Vurnon Anita, Donovan Slijngard, Rydell Poepon, and John Goossens." De Jong sometimes is still in contact with a few of them. "Vertonghen was already really good back then, just like Van der Wiel. I'm going to send this photo to Jan, by the way," he laughs. "Javier Martina was very fast, and Anita had already been promoted earlier. I hung out with him a lot. You could already see back then that Goossens had a very good kick; certain characteristics of those guys were already visible at that time," he continues.

Siem De Jong Teamfoto A1

Sonny Silooy was the U19 coach during that period. According to De Jong, he was a very relaxed coach with whom he had many good experiences. "The important matches and the championship were the most fun. We also went to Japan for a tournament with the U19 team. I scored a good goal in the semifinal by shooting a bouncing ball from a distance over the keeper." Not only was it a great sporting experience, but also everything around it, De Jong says. "Everyone got sick from the food on the first day; we had to get used to it. There were some sandwiches, but also fries for breakfast, for example. I think we all ate only white buns with jam. It was quite difficult to eat what we were used to there. We also visited the atomic museum; it was a great experience."

Talent of De Toekomst
When the midfielder officially joined the U19, he received the 'Sjaak Swart' trophy (now the Abdelhak Nouri trophy). "I obtained my high school diploma and developed well since my transfer from De Graafschap. Combining travel, football, and school went well for me. I made significant progress at that time, which might have contributed to receiving that prize. I still have the trophy, and I think it's at my parents' home."

After his strong performances on the field, things moved quickly for the later Ajax number ten. Once officially in the U19, he was soon promoted to Ajax U23. After that, he was also selected for the first team. "I remember a match with Ajax U23 where I was taken off at half-time. Initially, I didn't know why, but later, they told me I had to go to Zagreb with Ajax 1 the next day. I got myself a suit, packed my things, and flew to Croatia the next day. In the stadium, I trained with the first team for the first time. After that, I joined them quite quickly."

In his steps towards the first team, De Jong greatly benefited from the people around him. From coaches to team managers, they all helped him progress. They often expressed belief and confidence in him. Ultimately, the midfielder experienced his greatest successes under Frank de Boer, winning the third star as the highlight.

Ajax Traineeship
Meanwhile, De Jong has hung up his boots but is back with the Amsterdam-based club. The Ajax player is following a traineeship within the club. "I'm looking at what my next step will be. I hope to be valuable to Ajax in other areas. It's a journey of discovery for me. Although I've often been to the ArenA, I'm also curious about the youth academy. I'm preparing for the next step in my career, and Ajax offers me many opportunities. So far, I've learned a lot, and things are going well. It's a great opportunity that I'm very engaged with," he concludes.

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