Saturday, February 19, 2011

Know your Azkals: 'Bad boy' De Jong

“To be honest, I think we are overrated," Fil-Dutch Jason De Jong says smugly. 

While the entire Philippine archipelago was celebrating the Azkals’ win against Mongolia last week, Jason now says he fully expected it. 

“Mongolia has a lower standing. I’m happy we won, but it’s really nothing. We should celebrate if we beat countries ranked higher than us," he adds. 

This assertive attitude coupled with intimidating looks has earned Jason the rep of "Bad Boy" among the Azkals. And it’s not just a reputation — he lives up to it when he does the dirt on defense. 

“I am very physical. I play defense, and I like to tackle and go hard," he says. 

It’s pretty hard to imagine six-year-old Jason playing that intensely when he started out with a local football club in the Netherlands. Since then, he’s played in different teams such as Belgium Turnhout and NAC Breda, a premier league club in Holland. Thank God for the Internet, the Philippine Football Federation discovered his Filipino lineage and put him in the Azkals team. 

Like his teammates, the peak of his international career was beating Vietnam 2-0 in their hometown. He was in such high spirits that he even kissed Phil Younghusband. 

“You saw that?!" he asks. Apparently, he hasn’t seen the animated photos (GIFs) of him kissing Phil posted all over the Internet. 

“Yeah, I asked Phil for a kiss," he laughs. “I was so happy. After his goal, I knew we’d win. I knew we’d qualify for the semis." 

Mind you, Jason has been well-behaved during his entire stint as an Azkal. He’s never been handed a red card. He’s only been suspended once, and that was due to two yellow cards in Laos. But he has gotten into fights with other players because of how he plays. 

“As I said, I like playing physical, and I sometimes get into fights if the other player can’t take it. But if you can’t handle a tackle, then I say you’re in the wrong sport," he says as a matter of fact. 

Yup. There goes the bluntness again. 


Football is Jason’s first love; his second would probably be tattoos. He has tattoos on his back and on both arms. His left arm has images of everything important to him — religious symbols, the Philippine map, and his younger brother’s name. On his right forearm, there’s a text that reads “Habang Buhay Sama Tayo." 

“I know the grammar’s wrong, but I like how the words look together. It’s for my bunso, my dad and me. My mom left us, so it’s just the three of us now. It’s our bond forever," he says while looking at his newly inked left arm. “It’s like they’re always with me when I play, to take care of me and protect me."

He got these tattoos to show another side of himself, as people often see just the snobbish Jason. He even calls his younger brother “bunso." Aww.

Almost legal

Jason is celebrating his 21st birthday on February 28. It’s kind of bittersweet because he’s spending it away from family for the first time.

“It’s a special birthday because 21 means I’m fully grown up. I’m already legal in Holland, but this time I’m gonna be legal everywhere. I’m gonna go to Vegas and actually do things," he kids.

Vegas, you have been warned.

“I guess I don’t do anything not related to football"

Jason can’t help but be noticed whenever he goes out now — the foreign looks are already a giveaway. But he’d pick a private life any day. Last Valentine's Day, he was home alone, playing FIFA 11 and watching football.

“I guess I don’t do anything not related to football," he realizes. But then he thinks again and remembers the one non-football-related thing he loves — the TV show “The Inbetweeners."

“Coach Simon used to live with us here. One night he said, ‘Come here, De Jong! I have something to show you from my hometown.’ It was so funny. We stayed up all night watching it together," he recalls.

See? Jason actually has a “fluffy" side, so don’t be intimidated by him.

“I’m only serious when we have a game. I hope the fans understand that we have to focus. But if it’s not game day, I can smile. Look, I’m smiling now!" he says, and flashes a big smile. De Jong with a smile and De Jong with his game face on could honestly pass for two different people.

In any case, the tough-guy image is here to stay. We’re going to want that anyway, especially when they beat the hell out of Mongolia next month. KY/OMG, GMA News



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