Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Lensky interview

There are many mysteries in Canadian soccer. Why does Dale Mitchell still have a job? Will Canada ever qualify again for the World Cup? Who does Julian's hair? One of the more compelling for me was the strange and abrupt retirement of Jacob Lensky, at age 19, from professional soccer. He quit Feyenoord and went home to Vancouver in 2008, and hasn't really been heard from since.

Until now.

Lensky (#3) had his eyes opened to the harsh realities of professional football. Really. I went there. The lame eyes closed/eyes opened joke. You get what you pay for.

In an interview with Dutch football website V-Bal, Lensky tells all (or some) of the reasons for this decision, and hints at future plans. If you read Dutch, follow the link, otherwise enjoy this translation:
At the end of 2006 Feyenoord brought, in the person of Jacob Lensky, a talented Canadian to de Kuip [Feyenoord's stadium]. The youth international made his debut for the team under Erwin Koeman not long after that. In the following season the midfielder, due to injury, among other things, didn't step on the pitch. This past summer the almost 20 year old Lensky, that ought to have been considered a great talent, abruptly quite professional footbal. Months after this farewell, V-bal spoke with the now-returned to his homeland, former Feyenoorder.

You quit professional football just six months ago. What you have done in the time since then?
For me it wasn't very hard to move on with my life. I went to school and found it nice to be home more often. Apart from that, it was nice to be closer to friends and just to live as I did before my professional football career.

In the winter of 2006 you left Celtic for Feyenoord. Were there big differences for you between the two clubs?
It was a big difference for me because with Celtic I only played with the youth teams, while with Feyenoord I played immediately with the first team. I trained well in the beginning and felt good. To succeed with the first team I needed to understand the game better and above all be consistent. I think that this was sometimes hard for me.

What was your experience like under Erwin Koeman?
I really enjoyed playing for him. Call me sentimental, but I thought he was a nice man and I think he also saw something in me. I also enjoyed his manner of coaching, and I wish that I could have worked for him a little longer. Sadly he left at the end of that season.

As you mentioned, Koeman left after your first season at de Kuip. Was there a big difference between him and the trainer that succeeded him at Feyenoord, Van Marwijk and Verbeek?
There was a big difference between Erwin and Bert [van Marwijk]. Erwin helped me individually with specific things and I had a lot of contact with him. I think that Bert didn't know a lot about me and had more important things to do. As a result I felt left ignored and shut out, for example with the arrival of still more new players.

How was your relationship, in this difficult time, with technical director Peter Bosz?
During this time I didn't have a lot of contact with people in the club. At the end of the season under Erwin I was starting to feel like I was in my element and I was focussed. Unfortunately, I didn't know how to get along with the new coaches and players, and I lost that connection.

In the Netherlands, everybody is talking about Feyenoord losing touch with the big 3 [AZ, Ajax, PSV]. How different was the Feyenoord that you strengthened in 2007 with the club you left a year and a half later?
In this period, there were many comings and goings of players and coaches, which from my point of view resulted in many changes during my stay with the team. I had many ups and downs, because I constantly had to prove myself. As I said earlier, I felt that I had already proven myself at the end of the "Koeman-season". At the beginning of my second season the situation was completely different and I felt like that I was back to ground zero, and this affected me mentally. I still don't have a real idea of what went wrong with the club and what they should do now, I'm just saying what I saw myself.

Were these developments with the club the reason you quit football?
I had my own reasons for quitting, and they had to do with personal affairs. I think that you could say that a particular combination of events and circumstances also helped lead met to this decision.
What do you think the near future will look like for Feyenoord?
I think that the best analysts have already tried to figure this out, haha. I think that people need to stop taking things so seriously, but that is my personal opinion. Do I stillcare about Feyenoord? I wish the best for certain people at the club and certain people in the Netherlands.

Finally, is there a chance that we'll see you again in the sport?
I think that I'll play again, but when and where, we'll find out soon.
This last question has been answered perhaps sooner than expected. Lensky is trialling with the Vancouver Whitecaps, who are beginning to hoard young Canadian talent in anticipation of a future move to MLS.

The mystery of why young Mr. Lensky decided to quit professional football, for the time being, remains as unsolved as ever: "personal affairs" and a "combination of events and circumstances" hardly help to clear the air. Still, it's good to see a player get back on the horse and with a team that has the right attitude about developing and deploying Canadian talent (you'll note that Keegan Ayre and Marcus Haber are also in the Whitecaps camp right now).

I'm interested in what future, if any, he has with the Canadian program. At one point it seemed he was going to follow in the footsteps of Owen Hargreaves and fellow Feyenoorder Jonathan de Guzman, although Jacob's "reason for the treason" was the Czech Republic. Ultimaltely, he settled on Canada and played most recently in the U23 team that missed out on qualifying for Beijing.

In his recent interview, Dale Mitchell singled out youngsters Marcel de Jong and Will Johnson, incidentally both players that also played in the Dutch Eredivisie, as players who would become a bigger part of the Canadian setup over the next year. I'm hopeful that Lensky can join them one day.


Speaking of hope, Mr. Duane Rollins employs even more soaring rhetoric than the recently inaugurated Barack Obama in a recent post finally confirming De Rosario's signing for TFC. An example of this stirring prose.
Toronto the Good became Toronto the Colourful, a vibrant city that aspired to something. We weren’t always sure what that was, but we knew that it was going to be special. The city that once was in bed by 9 p.m., now was as likely to sway to the sounds of a samba beat to the wee hours of the morning.

Dwayne De Rosario comes from that city. He will represent it better than any other athlete imaginable. And it’s about time because even though the city has changed its sports heroes have not. There hasn’t been a modern athlete vibrant and exciting enough to capture the city’s heart. Vince Carter, for a while, but we all know how that turned out

DeRo will be that athlete. His coming to Toronto is the final piece in the near perfect storm that has allowed TFC to explode into the city’s consciousness. The sport has always had a place in new Toronto, but it has struggled to focus its attention. Not anymore. And, now the star, the local star, comes home to complete the picture.
I'm more inclined to take a wait-and-see approach for Dwayne. He recently completed his worst professional season in some time, and is reaching that age at which soccer players' skills and influence begin to decline. He no longer can be considered one of the best 3 or 4 Canadian players, in spite of his decent scoring record in international play. Still, he's a relatively big fish in MLS and offers something that Toronto hasn't had enough of in its first 2 seasons.

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