By Kevin Koczwara
Nigel de Jong’s tackle on Newcastle midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa made me cringe. As de Jong slid into his challenge my mind shifted to Stuart Holden. The Netherlands and Manchester City midfielder broke Holden’s leg in a friendly between the United States and Holland on March 3.
Holden nearly missed this summer’s World Cup with the U.S. because he sat out six weeks with a broken leg. He landed on Bradley’s final 23-man roster, but he never saw the field for the Yanks in South Africa.
Xabi Alonso felt de Jong’s pain during the World Cup. He and Holden should head a committee on the Dutch midfielder’s lack of passion and reserve in the middle of the field. Alonso received a Lui Kang-like kick to the chest during the World Cup final between Spain and the Netherlands. Alonso continued to play the rest of the match, which Spain won, 1-0, in extra time. de Jong recieved a yellow card from referee Howard Webb for the drop kick. It should have been a red card.
Now, de Jong won’t play in the Netherlands next two Euro 2012 qualifiers because Holland manager Bert van Marwijk decided to remove the player from the roster because of his recent record of reckless and dangerous tackles.
I applaud the Dutch coach’s stance on de Jong despite the impact the bullish midfielder had for Holland during the World Cup. He protected Wesley Sneijeder and th other skill players for the Dutch and helped an aging backline stay out of trouble as he gobbled everything in the midfield alongside Mark van Bommel, who has a pretty long rap sheet himself.
Right now, the Manchester City midfielder needs to step back and look at his on-field conduct and the major injuries he has caused in 2010. How does he want the media and the fans to perceive him as a player and a person?
I have long been a fan of de Jong’s style of play. He leaves everything on the field and doesn’t accept losing, but that doesn’t mean he can recklessly throw his body around the way he did when he Jackie Channed Alonso, slid into Holden or rampaged through Ben Arfa with his trailing leg.
The Dutchman will either go down in his club and country’s history as a winner and one of the hardest workers to ever grace the field, or he will look back as his career and see that he was nothing more than a thug. Time has come for him to make a decision, let’s all hope he makes the right one.
Kevin Koczwara is a contributing writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.