“It is an honour to be part of the council,” says Begovic, a 33-year old goalkeeper with AC Milan, on loan from English side Bournemouth. He has made 62 appearances for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“This is the right way to be involved and make the most positive impact in the game as possible,” Begovic said during a special video interview with FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann.
“I was born into this game, as my father was also a professional goalkeeper. I want to be involved in this game for the rest of my life, in some shape or form. It is that love for the game that I want to bring to the next generation and the game in general to inspire players, kids and anyone else.”
Begovic is inspiring in many ways. He has a foundation to encourage children in Bosnia and England to play sports and have a healthy lifestyle. He also runs an academy to help kids dreaming about becoming a goalkeeper.
“When I was growing up I admired professional goalkeepers. I had my heroes, but I never had contact with them. It means a lot to kids to interact with their heroes or train under their name, whether that’s with my academies or camps.”
A former refugee himself, Begovic is also an ambassador for the United Nations refugee program. When he was 4-years old, his parents left war-torn Bosnia for Germany. Six years later they had to move again, to Canada this time. “It is a period that pretty much shaped me. You go to Canada and you start a new life. You don’t know anybody. You go to the bottom and it is all about working your way up again.”
“That is something that not only humbles you, but is also such motivation to give my best in life and just try and work hard every single day, because you never know when things might get taken away from you again.”
Begovic is aware of intolerance against refugees and many other people, something he also notices in stadiums and is unwilling to accept.
“I have been flabbergasted for years now, with that situation at football matches, as to why racial abuse, homophobic abuse, and abuse in general are actually allowed. I am a huge sports fan. I have been to other sports events and only in football do I really see this strong hate against players or referees or coaches. In other parts of society this behaviour is not accepted.”
In addition to his role on the FIFPRO Global Player Council, Begovic supports the work of the Professional Footballers Association in England and the association in his home country, SPFBiH. “They are there to provide simple protection for footballers, just as ‘normal’ workers experience.”
“Sometimes, we forget footballers are humans. They should get paid on time, just like other employees in other businesses. Why should footballers be any different?”
Playing in England for more than 15 years, Begovic experienced how well player rights are protected thanks to the efforts of the PFA, which was established in 1907. The player association in Bosnia only started a few years back. “It still has an incredible amount of work to do just to protect those basic human rights for footballers. These are necessary, because for some reason, people think it is okay to not pay footballers for two, three, four months. But it wouldn’t be okay in any other business.”
Begovic aims to support the Bosnian player union SPFBiH in its efforts to help create an environment in Bosnia, which enables professional footballers to perform at the best of their abilities, without worrying if their contracts are going to be respected. “Players in the Premier League don’t have any other things to worry about than playing football. Creating that environment takes time, it takes buy in from people, from federations and from everyone involved to try and make this the best possible environment it can be. People also need to be open-minded. But over time, if you keep doing the right things, things will gradually improve.”
Former Australian international player and FIFPRO Deputy General Secretary Simon Colosimo is delighted to welcome Begovic on the Global Player Council: “We look forward to Asmir’s contribution through his profound understanding of difficulties faced by many players around the world. His knowledge of the football ecosystem through his experiences at the elite level provides us with further insight to advocate for the wellbeing of footballers worldwide.”