Finding urge to play again - The Province

Jacob Lensky's back home to restart career

Marc Weber
The Province

He's only 20, but Jacob Lensky has already risen to one of the top soccer leagues in the world and retired from the sport.

Now he's trying something normally reserved for aging superstars: the comeback.

The Vancouverite, who first garnered interest from English soccer giants as a seven-year-old, was one of 14 trial players on hand Monday as the Vancouver Whitecaps trained at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex.

These are the midfielder's first touches of the ball since asking well-known Dutch side Feyenoord to cancel his two-and-a-half year contract on Sept. 1 last year, saying he was quitting the sport.

"I didn't expect to be playing again," said Lensky, who spent three years in Scottish side Celtic's youth system before switching to Feyenoord in late 2006. "I just didn't want anything to do with soccer anymore. I didn't want to think about it, talk about it, watch it on T.V.

"I just wanted to completely remove myself from the situation because I burnt out so badly I couldn't take it anymore. But now that I've taken that break, got some perspective, I've found the urge to play again."

During a 2006 training camp in Turkey, Lensky debuted for Feyenoord as a 17-year-old against Galatasaray. In Feb., 2007, he made his first Eredivisie appearance as a substitute against FC Twente.

"Feyenoord is saddened by the player's departure, given that his footballing qualities were unquestionable," the club's technical manager, Peter Bosz, said when the decision to leave was made last fall.

Lensky wouldn't reveal the amount of money he left on the table, nor would he get into what his next contract might have looked like.

Happiness, he said, was the only priority, and he's found that again since returning to Vancouver.

It's come in the little things, like being able to call up his friends and go for coffee.

The next step for the Canada under-23, is to transfer that level of enjoyment into playing the game.

"If you can't have that," he said, "then what's the point?"

Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson learned that Lensky was itching to play again from Caps' youth coach Bart Choufour, who knows Lensky's dad -- and former coach -- Boris.

Thordarson expressed excitement at having Lensky in camp and said the former Vancouver College student was in good spirits.

"I'm very pleased to have him here because the guy obviously has fantastic qualities," the coach said. "But I also understand that after the experiences he's had he might be a little down. You can get broken down [in Europe]. It's not easy as a young player.

"He seems to be enjoying himself and I really hope that is the case."

With Lensky's resume, it's almost impossible to imagine there not being a place for him on the Whitecaps if he's in a good head space. Contract negotiations will of course play a role, too.

A return to Europe is the ultimate goal for Lensky, and next time he'll do things differently. Balance, he said, was important, and that means working hard at having a social life.

"As a young player you don't really know that, but you have to make friends, learn the language, stuff that I really didn't do," he said. "I'd approach things differently, be more open, not so doom and gloom about being away from home.

"Right now, I just want to keep on improving to what I was and, if I keep enjoying it, go from there."

mweber@theprovince.com