How Marc Klok Became a star

From Amsterdam North to Timnas: Marc Klok's emotional journey is seen through his mother's eyes

On the third floor on a major highway in Amsterdam North, an Indonesian football international was born. His name is Marc Klok. His mother Lia still lives in this house and watched from the Groetstraat in Amsterdam as her son kicked a medal at the SEA Games for Indonesia.

The long football journey to Timnas started for Lia's son with a ball and a very uncomfortable football pitch in Amsterdam North. "In this neighbourhood, there was no decent place to play football," Lia recalls. "In other neighbourhoods there was, the kids here hated that. Marc decided - as a small child - to write a letter to the local municipality. They granted his request for a decent place to play football and named it 'Marc Klokplein'. I thought that story was very typical of him as a child, because he always had to take care of things. "

Our young Marc's football life began on a pitch with his own name on it. He was surrounded by good footballers: Amsterdam Noord is a multicultural area and street football is a way of life there.

Marc's club career was not yet that intense. That changed when he heard that his friend Ouasim Bouy (who later played for Juventus and Leeds) was scouted by Ajax when he played for amateur team Zeeburgia in Amsterdam East.

Marc thought of such a route for himself too, so Lia enrolled him at Zeeburgia. There he went on to play in a team with later players like Adam Maher (former PSV, now FC Utrecht) and Danzell Gravenberch (former Ajax player and Ryan Gravenberch's older brother).


"That's where the real work started for Marc. He trained four times a week at a very young age, he developed a top sports mentality. It filled our days as a family. I was lucky to have time to help him play football. I was always there - next to the training ground. I even became a canteen lady at the club. That's when he really started dreaming of professional football."

That dream began when FC Utrecht, AZ, and Ajax showed interest in him. The family had the best gut feeling about Utrecht's youth academy, also because Ajax wanted him to do tryouts first.

"In those Utrecht years, Marc worked incredibly hard. He was never the kind of football talent for whom everything was completely natural. He also really struggled and made long days. I woke him up at 6.30 am, then he spent the whole day at a top sports school and the evening at FC Utrecht. When he finally got home, he still had to do his homework. He slept at 11 pm and the next day his alarm went off early again."

So those were the years when Marc learned to fight, in some cases even off the football pitch. "His peers were regularly jealous of him and sometimes bullied him a bit. When I heard that, I told Marc not to let anyone stop him. I told him - that if he needed it - he should throw a punch. From his own character, he was too nice and sweet to even think about that. But you have to show people your spirit."

So Marc grew up in Amsterdam Noord and at FC Utrecht, where he started playing with the second selection at 17. His professional debut was close, but a serious injury put an end to that.

After he recovered, his place at Fc Utrecht was taken. He began his football adventures in Bulgaria, Scotland, and England.

And then, completely out of the blue, came Indonesia.

Difficult period

PSM Makassar wanted Marc to join the club. There was some doubt, but Marc decided to take his chance and go for it. He went to Indonesia, not yet aware of the immense tragedy that was about to change his family's life forever.

"The day he left, 11 April 2017, I was sad. I remember asking Marc's stepfather Ton: 'What if something bad happens in our family? Marc will be so far away. Ton tried to calm me down and said 'Don't worry dear, what could ever go wrong?'".

The terrible answer to that question came only a day later. On 12 April 2017, Ton was found dead. He had taken his own life.

"Marc had just arrived in Indonesia at that time. He had called on the 11th to tell us he had landed in Makassar and also spoke to Ton, who was a true friend of his. When he went to sleep in his hotel at the same time, everything went wrong in Amsterdam.''

Lia phoned Indonesia. When Marc heard the terrible news, he was ready to cancel his entire contract at PSM and travel straight back to his family. "But I convinced him to be there. I didn't allow him to return. I wanted the best for him. I told him, 'Mum will arrange everything here and then she will come to you right away'. But at the time, it felt like Indonesia was worlds away. "

After the funeral, Lia and her mother traveled to Makassar. Lia had never been to Indonesia before and conditions were tough. But somehow it felt right: she didn't yet understand why, but Indonesia felt like home from the start.

"That first trip was insane for me. It was hard and full of tears, but also meaningful. My mother and I sat in the VIP sector of the PSM stadium where Marc made his debut. He scored - with that typical kind of free kick he takes - and ran towards us and sent a kissing gesture with his hand. He told the media that the goal was meant as a tribute to Ton."

Indonesia became home

In the weeks, months, and years after Lia watched from the Groetstraat in Amsterdam as her son became a football star in Indonesia. At one point, Marc told her he would become an Indonesian citizen and play for Timnas.

Lia was not even surprised. She had seen up close how Marc became attached to his new country. "He loves getting to know new people. Being social is a very important part of Indonesian culture and that suits him very well. And also: Indonesians have been so nice to him from the beginning."

During the same period, Lia herself fell a little in love with Indonesia. After that first trip in April 2017, she traveled back to Indonesia several times. "I went alone and noticed how helpful and friendly people were. And I saw that they appreciated what they had, even if it was little."

Secretly, she herself dreamed of staying in Indonesia, like her son. "I immediately felt at home. I feel my sadness disappears when I am there. I even tried to get a job as a babysitter in Indonesia but found that only younger ladies got such jobs. But who knows what will happen in the future."

This Sunday, Lia watched Marc score the decisive penalty for Indonesia at the SEA Games and win a medal, carrying a red and white flag on his shoulders. Five years have passed since that terrible time in April 2017.

"When I saw him with the medal I realized: this is my son. It moved me so much, I couldn't be prouder.

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