Monday, May 27, 2024

Asmir Begović: “Chelsea Was A Fantastic Experience”

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Asmir Begović.

Begović is a professional goalkeeper, who currently plays his football for AFC Bournemouth in the EFL Championship.

Asmir has played in England and Italy as well as Belgium and Azerbaijan. I wanted to find out how these leagues differ to play in.

Asmir Begović during his time with Stoke City.

“Football is the same everywhere, but there are some differences in the organisation, the mentality, the culture of football”, Asmir replied.

“I have been playing all around, and there are differences, not just in different countries but in different tiers in England. Obviously, playing for Premier League clubs means the top level of organisation, and the same experience was playing for AC Milan, one of the biggest clubs in the world”.

“Azerbaijan was great in a different way because I did not know much about their football, but the game is developing fast there, and I really enjoyed to be part of that development”.   

Asmir Begović during his time in Azerbaijan.

Asmir’s Time In England

Asmir is best known for his time in England, playing for clubs such as Portsmouth, Stoke City, Chelsea and AFC Bournemouth. I questioned Begović as to which team he looks back with the fondest memory of playing for.

“That is a difficult question. I enjoyed my time in every club”, Asmir responded.

“Every club was a big part of my life. I started my career with Portsmouth, moved there from Canada as a kid and that club gave me a chance to develop as a goalkeeper. Stoke was a step forward, I established myself as a Premier League goalkeeper”.

Asmir Begović whilst with Portsmouth.

“Chelsea was a fantastic experience, a huge club in global terms. We won the league title; I played in the Champions League. On the other hand, what I most like about Bournemouth is the fact that this is a family club, a huge part of the community and it is a real pleasure to be part of that”.

One of Asmir’s most memorable moments in England is the goal he scored for Stoke against Southampton after 13 seconds. This is a goal that broke a Guiness World Record, being measured at 91.9m as the longest goal in football.

Many goalkeepers such as Begović choose not to celebrate in these situations. I wanted to find out if there was any part of Asmir that secretly enjoyed scoring that goal.

Asmir Begović being congratulated by Ryan Shawcross after his goal against Southampton.

“Of course, I wanted to celebrate it; it was a unique experience, something that happens once in a lifetime”, Asmir responded.

“The first thing that came to my mind at that moment was the fact that it could have happened to every goalkeeper, including me. I cleared the ball, the wind was strong, it went in, and there was no reason to rub the salt on my colleague’s wound. But of course, I was happy and that moment was fantastic”.

World Cup Experience

It is the childhood dream of most football fans to be capped by their country and play in a World Cup. Begović has managed to do both of these, being capped 63 times by the Bosnian national team. Asmir was part of the first and only Bosnian national team to reach the World Cup.

This was something I wanted to ask Asmir about and what the experience is like to play in a World Cup.

Asmir Begović during a World Cup match against Nigeria in 2014.

“It was one of the best moments of my career. It was one of my childhood dreams, and it is the biggest honour in football to line up and listen to the national anthem at the World Cup”.

“For me, as a Bosnian, it was an especially proud moment because my country went through tough times, and this was a way to give these people the reason to be happy. We had huge support in that campaign and all the other matches, thousands following us on every game and there was a special bond with those people. Every time I went out on the pitch to play for my country was a special feeling”.

We often see a huge amount of pressure put on the English national team as they are expected to perform at every major tournament.

Frank Lampard and David Beckham after England’s penalty shootout loss in the 2006 World Cup.

Players always want to go as far as they can but when the Wales national team reached the European Championships in 2016, there was an element of a free pass. It was a celebration of just being at the tournament. I was curious to see if this was the same for Begović when he reached the World Cup with Bosnia.

“Well, that is an initial sentiment, you want to enjoy every moment, especially when you are coming from such a small country. But, as soon as the competition starts you want to show to the world how good you are”, Asmir stated.

Last season, Begović had a loan spell at AC Milan. It was an area of interest for me to find out what the feeling was like to play in Italy and do it in such an iconic stadium as the San Siro.

The San Siro in Milan.

“San Siro is the football’s equivalent of the finest art gallery. One of the best stadiums in the world, playing there is a fantastic experience”, Asmir answered.

“I really enjoyed Serie A. It is a top league, but still very different than the English Premier League. It is much more strategic, the whole football culture is obsessed with tactics, and it sucks you into that mode very fast. The country is beautiful, and people love football, what is there more to ask”.

Asmir Begović during his time with AC Milan.

Asmir has played against some great players throughout his career. I asked him who the toughest player he has played against.

“There has been plenty of great players, that is for sure. But when you think of it, the decision is quite easy. The two best players of our time, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo”.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Every goalkeeper needs a good defence ahead of them. I wanted to find out from Asmir who he would say is either the best centre back or best centre back pairing he has had in front of him.

“That is a difficult question. There have been many great players I played with, and it isn’t easy to pick one”, Begović replied.

Finally, I wanted to ask Asmir what his one career highlight would be.

“Playing at the World Cup”, Asmir responded.

“We had a great team, a group of close friends, the support of the Bosnian people was fantastic and too bad that the organisation of the Federation was not on the same level. But, I still get goosebumps every time I think of that Argentina match”.

Asmir Begović during the World Cup match with Argentina in 2014.

It was a great honour to speak with Asmir Begović and talk to him about his career, with some great insights into life as a professional footballer.

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