Clutch DNA

clutch 1 (klch)
  1. Being or occurring in a tense or critical situation
  2. Tending to be successful in tense or critical situations

Sunday, May 15 2011. In a  stuffed Amsterdam ArenA, Ajax played title-rivals FC Twente in the final game of the season. The bounty? An Eredivisie title. Winner takes it all.

After 23 minutes of that game had passed, right full-back Van der Wiel received the ball wide right of the field. Not hesitating for a moment, he pumped it across the box towards the far post. Time stopped for me and many Ajax fans with me. Then suddenly, as if per magic, Siem de Jong popped up at that far post. Completely open. Boom. Left-foot volley. 1-0 up in the season-defining game.

Siem de Jong was born in Aigle, Switzerland, on the 28th of January 1989. His parents? Former volleyball professionals George de Jong and Loekie Raterink. They had moved to Switzerland so Siem’s mother could continue her career and his dad could start coaching volleyball teams. Their entire life was focused on top sport.

At the age of six, Siem moved back to Holland and joined local Doetinchem side DZC ’68. Six years down the road, De Graafschap took notice of the talent walking around in their literal back yard (the house of the De Jong family is right behind De Vijverberg stadium) and recruited the talent midfielder into their ranks. There, he was quickly noticed by Ajax and in 2005, the young Achterhoeker made his move to the Amsterdam giants. Soon after he broke into the first team and never left.

Now, at the end of 2012, Siem de Jong has gone leaps and bounds and actually captains this Ajax side. A call Frank de Boer made when famed central defender Vertonghen left Amsterdam but one that was questioned by many. Was he the right guy to lead this Ajax? Does he have the needed mental capacities to fire these men and boys up and make them victors in the heated, Dutch Eredivisie? Those questions still remain to be answered.

One cannot deny the fact Siem de Jong has clutch DNA, though. Back to that season defining game in 2011. After Theo Janssen had blasted in the 2-1 just after half time, FC Twente had gained back momentum and looked like they could damage Ajax’ title-dreams with a serious assault. Marshalled forward by the eccentric Arnhemmer, the Tukkers got into Ajax’ face more than once.

That was, until the 78th minute. After a marauding run of the left by Daley Blind, the ball ended up at De Jong’s feet. Then a quick one-two with Eriksen followed and time stopped once more. As the ball was slid into Siem’s feet, Michaylov left his goal and a gap opened up. The gift of scoring crucial goals was unleashed once again, his clutch DNA came into play. With a soft touch of the left foot, the ball glided into the back of the net and Ajax had won their 30th title after a seven year drought.

A year later, Ajax had to beat VVV Venlo to secure their 31st. With 8 minutes gone, De Jong popped up again and gave his side the lead. 50 minutes later, he decided the game with a simple twist-and-turn shot and gave Ajax fans a reason to celebrate.  It doesn’t come as a surprise any more though, as Ajax only lost 2 of the 46 games De Jong scored in. He is, quite simply, a game-decider.

Tuesday night, it was again De Jong that took the side by his hand, scoring two goals on corner kicks to bring Manchester City’s stars falling from the sky. Despite Ajax conceding twice, Captain Clutch popped up again at a critical time of the season. And it surely won’t be the last time in his career. Because that clutch DNA of his cannot be forgotten.


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