He was one of the rarest of players. Canadian to the bone, a young west-coast superstar who was being scouted by the Europeans almost from the moment he first saw a football pitch. He was with the Celtic youth academy by the age of 15 and then moved up to Feyenoord, getting an Eredivisie match at age eighteen.
How many Canadians have done that? He was big, quick, and talented: three pretty good attributes to combine. Particularly good off set pieces and probably the best young midfielder this country had since... actually, I'm not sure we'd ever had one at his level.
Alas, success was not to be. Rotterdam was a long way from his native Vancouver and he'd been packing suitcases on a tour of Europe when he was younger than most of us were when we started driving. In an interview later with The Province, he said, "I just wanted to completely remove myself from the situation because I burnt out so badly I couldn't take it anymore." So 19-year-old Jacob Lensky requested his release from Feyenoord, one of the best sides in Europe.
Said Peter Bosz, technical director of Feyenoord, "Feyenoord is saddened by the player’s departure, given that his footballing qualities were unquestionable." But the Dutch giants were class until the end and let Lensky go on his way. The young starlet retired and flew home to Vancouver.
You know what just about everybody in Canadian football said at the time? Good for him! There had always been rumours, and more than rumours, about the Lenskys. Jacob's father Boris Lensky was your stereotypical football father, flying Jacob around hell's half acre, openly gunning for a youth deal with Manchester United before inking terms with Celtic. Before Feyenoord, all the Canadian footballing world knew of Jacob Lensky was what Boris Lensky told us and the exciting quotes that filtered through the youth academies of the big European clubs as Boris jerked Jacob around from country to country. As a teenager Jacob played for five European youth setups in three countries. And these are simply the facts of record, before getting into the usual whispers that surround cases like this.
Then, out of nowhere in January, stunning news came down the wire. Lensky was on trial with a football club again. But for the alumnus of Celtic and Feyenoord, the side this time was more humble: the defending USL Division 1 champion Vancouver Whitecaps. In a report from The Province, Lensky identified the reason he was back: he was happy to be playing closer to home and away from the pressures of a big European club. All around, Canadian fans applauded at a young man seeming to be getting back into the game the right way. He impressed in Vancouver and received a trial offer from the MLS's Seattle Sounders. All was right with the world.
Then Lensky left Vancouver camp. Not to go to Seattle, but to go home. The Sounders confirmed Lensky hadn't accepted their trial offer. Had he simply grown sick of the game again? Nobody in the Lensky camp was talking, and Jacob was left to fade into the obscurity that is the rightful due of every nineteen-year-old.
Finally, today, almost exactly four months after the Vancouver-Seattle soap opera, Jacob Lensky is back on the footballing pages. Back in the Netherlands, Lensky was on trial with FC Utrecht (Dutch) - and, in spite of eight months layoff, impressing. Lensky is back in Canada now, and the question does not seem to be whether Utrecht wants Lensky but whether, so soon after his release from Feyenoord for personal reasons, he is eligible for another Eredivisie contract.
Of course, there's still the open matter of whether Lensky really wants to play again or if he's just being pushed from a certain direction. But not to worry! According to FC Utrecht head of scouting Edwin de Kruijff, Lensky was just taking a gap year to resume his studies.
Where did that come from? In which parallel dimension can one take the words "gap year" from the quote "I burnt out so badly I couldn't take it anymore?" Burned out so badly that he wasn't even willing to play for Seattle in North America's second-best football league, on a team so close to his home town that he could drive back. And after about a semester, he decides "wow, I feel great, and all that studying that I never told anybody about and that was so intensive that I couldn't, say, stay in shape by playing for a university or in the USL PDL or something has really paid off! I think I'll go back to the Netherlands and really, really piss off Feyenoord by signing for one of their rivals after securing my release quite possibly under false pretenses!"
Believe me, this is not the last chapter of Jacob Lensky's footballing soap opera.