De Jong is “just Henk” and this was decisive: “He won the state lottery for the second time”

The year 2023 is ending. In the traditional year-end series, 11 athletes and one coach look back on an eventful year. Today: SC Cambuur coach Henk de Jong.

How lucky can a person be in life? At the end of what he can only describe as a “very special” year, Henk de Jong knows the answer. In the abandoned sponsors’ room of the SC Cambuur stadium, 59-year-old Friese presses his hands together once again on this stormy afternoon. “I won the state lottery for the second time in my life.”

He made his debut at the age of 24 and as the starting coach of the Drachtster Boys. He bought a lottery ticket, the number of which he still knows 35 years later. It turns out that 0001978 corresponds to 100,000 guilders, which is equivalent to about 45,000 euros today.


First, De Jong spent an evening running his finger around a local cafe. When the store closed, he laughed and paid the 1,200 guilder receipt. He later purchased four used Porsches. “There might have been five, I don’t remember exactly.” De Jong thought he could sell fast cars at a huge profit. “I couldn’t get rid of them on the cobblestones.”

He never regretted this impulsive behavior. But he still sometimes wonders if he could have spent the money better. “With this money I was able to buy two properties in Groningen. “If I had done that, I would be there by now.”

And now he has another lottery ticket in his hand. Price again. Figuratively speaking, yes, but the joy is no less.

De Jong has been struggling with unexplained symptoms since the end of 2021. He was seeing double, his nose was numb, he was repeating himself in conversations, and he was disoriented. He slept 21 hours every day. “The rest of the time I was there and at the same time I wasn’t there. “I actually didn’t have a life.”

pineal cyst

On March 28 this year, he underwent surgery at Radboud UMC for a twenty-millimeter diameter pineal cyst in his brain. On 12 September, it was announced that he had fully recovered, and then on 10 October, he was appointed manager of his club, Cambuur, for the fourth time in his life.

And all because of this message that suddenly appeared on his phone screen during a boat trip between Harlingen and Vlieland.

De Jong received a message via LinkedIn from Eindhoven doctor Jos Eijkenboom, who told him that his wife was suffering from the same ailments that De Jong had openly talked about in the media during his illness.

It turned out that the woman had a benign growth on her pineal gland and was successfully operated on by Nijmegen doctor Erik van Lindert. She read that maybe she was suffering from the same problem and that such an operation could save her too.

Only Henk de Jong

For a while De Jong wondered how Eijkenboom could find him. People around him helped him answer. In the crazy world of football, he is Henk de Jong. Or as he puts it: “Just Henk de Jong.”

“The fact that I am who I am was ultimately my saving grace. I stand out because I always remain myself. Sometimes people think it’s not actually possible for me to compete in football. Apparently it’s because I’m so normal.”

De Jong is a man who is always there for everyone. “I often think that in life you get what you give.” And look. “Mixed? Maybe yes.”

Don’t worry, De Jong remained intact even after the surgery. “If anything has changed, it’s that I started to look at life differently. First of all, it is more conscious. You have to enjoy it, you have to put it in perspective. “It could end at any moment.”

De Jong never looks back with anger. “I never got angry during my illness. Not for a second. I have never mistreated my wife or children by complaining or otherwise. “I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone.”


Suddenly his breath gets stuck in his throat. The flow of words stops and dries up. Talking about this time suddenly becomes more difficult for De Jong than he had long expected.

Then emotionally: “I only wanted one thing if the surgery went wrong. I didn’t complain. “That I didn’t upset anyone.” In this case it would have to be something like “Okay, that’s it”.

“The reason I’m reacting so emotionally right now is because now that I’m talking about it, it all suddenly comes back. I hid it somewhere deep inside.”

Strangely enough, he says he has never been afraid of death. “Of course, sometimes I thought about what my wife and children’s life would be like when I wasn’t here. But I wanted to live again so much that I didn’t think much about death.”

“I truly believed that if what was in my mind was resolved, I would have a new life. Regardless of the risk, I was never nervous about this surgery. I discussed this issue with the surgeon in charge. I had a nice chat about Cambuur half an hour before the procedure. Then I said to him: Let’s go! “That’s how I got involved.”

And look where he is now, he says. “I enjoy it every day. I’ll be 60 next year and I don’t have that much time anymore. I hope to last as long as possible. I’m back on the field with the kids and I’m also supporting my friends who are suffering. I’m also struggling with a pineal cyst. You know I have the best life there is. “Even this weather can’t break my spirit.”

tiles wall

“Maybe that sounds weird,” he says. Still. “In a way, this disease has been an asset for me.”

Life, De Jong laughs, is like a wall tile hanging somewhere in the catacombs of the stadium in the Frisian capital.

You can be grateful. And points from Cambuur.

Source: NOS