De Jong returns to Cambuur after six months of painting and mowing the lawn: ‘I’m off again’

Pro Shots

NOS Football

  • Jan Vincent van South

    Football Editor

  • Jan Vincent van South

    Football Editor

“Run Jamie, run! Yaaaaa, good ball! Go on, five more minutes guys!” The voice of SC Cambuur trainer Henk de Jong blares through the Cambuur stadium as usual. “Good, Mitchie, go, go, go!” Mitchel Paulissen gets an arm around his neck moments later and the player eagerly accepts the compliments.

Familiar images and sounds, but it is not so obvious that De Jong is walking the field again in Leeuwarden. Six months ago, his head and body slammed on the brakes from one moment to the next.


“I drove to the stadium and there was nothing wrong. But suddenly I got very bad vision. I thought I was in a dream world. It was not good, but I did not fully realize it,” he says.

“At the club it went well again, but after an hour it came back. I also repeated myself, said the same thing over and over. I was talking gibberish. Then everyone realized that it was wrong.”

Coach De Jong back at Cambuur, on the day construction of the new stadium starts

During a visit to the doctor, De Jong was told that he had to rest. “I was too busy, but my life is always busy. I had no stress from Cambuur, because we were fifth at the time. My son Ruben was seriously ill, affected by corona. Fortunately, things are slowly getting better, but I made it there. I do care.”

Constantly tired

After two days of rest, De Jong tried to pick up work again, but the complaints returned immediately. “Then a scan was made of my head and I was told that something could be seen in my head. Then you are shocked. It turned out to be a cyst that is stuck in my head. Quite a large Fortunately, all kinds of tests soon showed that it was not cancer, but benign.”

Because the cyst is in a difficult place, it is not possible for the doctors to remove it surgically. Rest is the motto and De Jong was ready for that. “I was so tired, not normal. If I could get some peace of mind, I could just work with it and live on.”

Assistant trainers Pascal Bosrischt and Martijn Barto took on the duties of De Jong. Not an ideal solution, because they both follow a course and also have a family at home. “I found it very annoying for them and also for my players. So after a month I went back to work halfway.”

‘You are Henk de Jong, aren’t you?’ I laughed. “Yes, I’m the lawnmower here.”

Henk de Jong about his rest period

De Jong returned too soon. “That is not possible in the football world. When you are there, you have to be there one hundred percent. I thought I could sit quietly behind those guys, to help them. But that was even harder than standing in front of the group. And it was also much too fast. The complaints came back and the doctor said: Mr. De Jong, you are far from recovered.”

After a conversation with his wife and children, De Jong took the plunge. It was no longer possible and he took a temporary step back. “It felt wonderful to stop, really wonderful. I had to, I also noticed it in myself. I was no longer Henk.”

Thousands of messages

De Jong learned in that period what it is like to really distance yourself from the football world. “I put my phone on silent. In the first few months, thousands of sweet messages came in. It’s in my nature to answer them all. It’s impossible. It makes me feel bad, but I’m learning to deal with that. go. I have to look after myself.”

Pro Shots

A message for Henk de Jong in the Adelaarshorst in Deventer

Painting and mowing the lawn, these were activities that helped De Jong to calm his mind again. “I mowed the grass for my neighbor, a big piece on such a small machine. So nice to do.”

The trainer caused surprised faces. “Recently an Ajax supporter drove by. He was staring at me and got out at one point. ‘This is not possible, you are Henk de Jong, aren’t you?’ I laughed. ‘Yes, I’m the lawnmower here.’ I think that’s wonderful things.”

Tension before first training

After a break of six months, De Jong felt that he was ready to resume his position. “I was really looking forward to it, but also had a bit of tension for the first training. It was very special to be back on the field after such a long time.”

“I thought about what to say, but I just blew my flute and scolded the players. They knew immediately that I was back and that the pace had to be high. And I thought: now it’s done, we are there again.”

Pro Shots

SC Cambuur trainer Henk de Jong during the first training of the preparation

With fresh energy, De Jong and Cambuur are working towards the start of the competition. The assignment is ‘just’ to maintain, despite the handsome ninth place last season. Everything at Cambuur is aimed at moving into the new stadium as an Eredivisionist the following season.

The new stadium is to be completed in September 2023. De Jong: “That has always been my dream. I want to go to the new stadium with Cambuur, I think that is really beautiful. It will be quite a battle again this season.”

“Through the past six months, I also know that there is more than just football. But football is very beautiful. Dealing with a group of players, the atmosphere in the stadium, contact with the people and the supporters: it is really a privilege to be the trainer of Cambuur. It is a very special club, I realize that even better now.”