The former Ajax man had just seen the paperwork finalized for his move to MLS only days before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the league to a standstill, leaving de Jong in the strange situation of being self-quarantined in a new city where he didn't really know anyone — not even the new teammates he had only trained with three times and was just getting acquainted with.
De Jong joined the premier episode of the FC Cincinnati podcast "The Orange and Blue Review" for an interview that was released on Tuesday, telling hosts Charlie Hatch and Alex Stec that while it's bizarre circumstances he's managing, he feels lucky that he made the decision to travel with his whole family, which includes his wife and two children, just before travel bans went into effect that would have kept them separated.
"It's been a crazy experience," de Jong said. "After 2-3 weeks I was able to come here and start this new adventure and after three days it got postponed, so it's a really weird situation. I basically came in here and joined the club and I'm not allowed to start.
The [pandemic] already started just before I came here, so for us, we knew a little bit about what was going on and we said, 'OK, we're going to travel all together because you never know when they might cancel flights or start a travel ban' so luckily we did that and we came here as a family otherwise I would be here by myself. If it had taken three days longer, they wouldn't have even been allowed to come here."
De Jong said he had prior connections with forward Jurgen Locadia and defender Maikel van der Werff, but other than that, his in-person interactions with teammates have been limited to those three training sessions.
"I had a bit of contact with some of the players," he said. "It's difficult to get to know players in three days, so for me it's a weird situation because I haven't really gotten to know anybody and then this all starts. I knew Jurgen and Maikel a little bit from before, so Maikel helped me a little bit with moving and I've talked to Jurgen a couple times. But you don't want to get in contact with people too much, it's not a time to come by with the kids, so at this point it's better to stay home.
"We're trying to stay home as possible until this thing is cleared and then we'll go and meet the other families and I'll meet the players at the training ground again. I'll start over a little bit, it was only three days, so after this passes so hopefully it'll be a new beginning for me at the club again."