Imagine, if you will, being 20 years old, about to make your professional debut in your country’s top flight – that’s a story told countless times over, including in Canada over the past two years.
Next, though, imagine that debut coming against one of the top clubs in the world; that’s how new Cavalry FC defender Daan Klomp began his pro career. After years with the academy and reserve sides of NAC Breda, Klomp made his first appearance for the Dutch Eredivisie in 2018, starting at centre-back in a home contest against AFC Ajax (who would go on a run to the UEFA Champions League semifinals that same year).
“The coach told me, there’s no pressure for you, you won’t be (to blame) if it doesn’t work out,” Klomp recalled in a chat with CanPL.ca. “I just played my own game and it actually went quite well because we had to play against big players in the game.”
Certainly, Klomp did well considering the circumstances against the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek (now playing for Barcelona and Manchester United, respectively), as well as longtime veterans of the Dutch game like Daley Blind and Dusan Tadić. Ajax won the match 3-0 – although Klomp came out of the game minutes before Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s injury-time goal.
“They tell you two days before that you’re gonna start, so the nerves come the day before,” Klomp explained. “When the match starts, you don’t feel any pressure or any nerves.”
Two years on, Klomp is able to boast that impressive notch in his belt – plus another eight games in the Dutch top flight (one more against Ajax) – and he isn’t likely to forget it anytime soon. Now, the beneficiary of Klomp’s experience in Europe is Cavalry FC, who signed the centre-back directly from Breda in January. With previous defensive stalwarts like Dominick Zator and Jay Wheeldon moving on from the Cavs, Klomp will likely be crucial to the backline in 2021.
Certainly, Cavalry coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. expects him to be.
“Daan Klomp is four years younger (than Zator) with the same amount of pedigree, and probably could have a bigger upside if he can hit the ground running,” Wheeldon told CanPL.ca back in March.
Klomp’s arrival in Calgary may seem like a surprising move, coming from the Netherlands, but he explained that it was living in Canada, specifically, that appealed to him.
“I had some talks with coaches in Scandinavia; the English wasn’t that good, and going as a foreigner in a country where you don’t speak the language that well and the others don’t really speak English… I thought, yeah, Canada might be way better for me,” Klomp said. “Everybody who talks about Canada to me is all really positive, so I’m happy that I can experience it myself now.”
“When we got out (of quarantine) we went straight downtown to have a look at what the city is about, and it looked really nice,” Klomp said. “I can really see myself living here.”
On the footballing side of things, Klomp is optimistic about the Cavs. Although they’re very early in the preseason cycle – Klomp pointed out they don’t even have the full squad together yet – he sees a lot of talent on the training pitch. A little rust is understandable; Klomp himself, for instance, hasn’t played a game since February 2020.
“We’re not at full power yet, but I think there’s a good group we have. Everybody’s really nice, and I think we’re gonna make it a good year,” he said.
“I’m really happy to start playing football again, that’s the main thing.”