Goalkeepers need to have many strings to their bow now, says Begovic | Interview | Football News

Once a stalwart in the hustle and bustle of the Premier League, Asmir Begovic has gracefully transitioned to a new chapter. Now leading the Queens Park Rangers in the Championship, Begovic, 36, embraced a rather intriguing challenge in a league busier than the top flight of English football, with 46 matches in a season. This, following a season where he found himself mainly on the bench with Everton, yielding the stage to the talented Jordan Pickford.

Asmir Begovic playing for QPR.(X/Asmir Begovic)

Begovic’s odyssey began in the war-scarred landscapes of Bosnia, where he witnessed the grim realities of conflict from a tender age. His father was forced to take the family to Germany when Begovic was four, eventually settling in Canada. Returning to Bosnia to represent his birthplace, then, may have been a sentimental journey for Asmir Begovic, but it was in England that his heart and career found a profound and enduring connection.

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From making a name for himself at Portsmouth to basking in the glory of a title with Chelsea, and navigating successful stints at Stoke City and Bournemouth, England has been the canvas where Begovic painted the vivid strokes of his footballing legacy.

Now, at the age of 36, as Begovic stands on the precipice of the final phase of his illustrious career, he finds himself back in the bustling city of London. A city where his family has rooted itself for many years, this chapter feels like a homecoming for Begovic. We sat with the Bosnian goalkeeper as Begovic spoke of his illustrious career, while providing insights into modern goalkeeping and the ever-evolving landscape of football.


It has been a challenging season for Queens Park Rangers but the past four matches yielded two wins and a draw. What are the targets, then, for the club this year?

Yeah, it’s definitely been a challenging season so far. I think, that’s for everyone to see in the position that we’re in. But I think our performance, especially over the last month, have been a lot better. I think we’ve come together as a squad and obviously with a new manager and things have certainly improved.

And we have to keep that going. That’s the beauty of the championship. It’s a marathon of a season. There are so many games. And of course, there are a lot of points still to play for. So, we want to finish as good as we can and have a really good second half of the season and hopefully put ourselves in a really good position when the season is over.

So, still plenty to go. We have the quality to obviously, first and foremost, stay in the division and then see where that takes us.

How has the transition been from being largely on the bench for Everton to playing twice a week – as captain – for QPR?

It has been fairly easy. First and foremost, I’m really enjoying playing every week once again and to be given the opportunity to be at such a historic club and traditional club like QPR was a big honour for myself.

And, of course, to be given the captaincy means a lot to me, and I really take that responsibility very, very seriously. So, like I said, it’s still a long way to go. I’ve, on a personal level, enjoyed being out there, being in the atmosphere again, playing in a top level league like the championship.

The Championship is a taxing league. At 36, how do you manage its physical demands?

Yeah, of course. It’s a physically and mentally taxing league. It’s a marathon of a season, as you rightly said earlier, and we’ve spoken about it before. It’s about making sure you do the right things every single day and how you look after yourself and look after your body.

We’ve been very lucky. We have great facilities here. We’ve got great medical staff and people to look after us on a daily basis. But it takes a lot of discipline and commitment to look after yourself in the best way possible to make sure you’re available for the 46 games, if selected. So, I take that work seriously.

I’ve done it throughout my career and hopefully, , that work will pay off and hopefully I can play as many games as possible this season. ,

As a goalkeeper, what are the major aspects you look at while considering offers from a club?

Well, I think you look at different aspects for sure. I think, of course, that the manager of the club, and the vision of the club is very, very important. Being a goalkeeper myself, the goalkeeping group and goalkeeper coaches are almost equally as important because that is the group of people you spend a lot of time with on a daily basis. And we are very lucky to have the likes of Gavin Ward, who leads our goalkeeping department as a coach.

We’ve got a fantastic group. And then as you get into my position, you’ve got family, you’ve got wife and kids and everyone else to consider as well. So many different factors. And QPR ticked a lot of boxes for me this past summer.

Goalkeeping has seen significant changes over the years. Do you think that being traditional goalkeeper might not just be enough in modern football?

I think the position has evolved a lot over there over the years. I think the whole game has. Players now are bigger and better athletes than they’ve ever been before. And there’s a lot more demands technically and physically. The goalkeeper is no different. I think we need to have many strings to our bow now. Probably, 10 to 20 years ago, when I started, we didn’t have to. So, you’re always evolving. And I think that’s the sort of nature of the world.

Different managers have different ways of playing and different demands on a goalkeeper. And I think the more qualities you have, the better you can adjust for playing for these different managers, and obviously, as the game evolves. So, it’s definitely a lot more demanding. It’s always, of course, a challenge to make sure you keep up with these things.

Since you have brought up the discussion about managers… you have worked with many big names yourself. What is the balance that you seek while playing under a manager?

It’s difficult to say. I think a lot of managers, everyone does things in their own way. And I’ve been very, very lucky to have played with some top managers. We’ve achieved some amazing things as teams and obviously with them in the leadership position. Working with the likes of Jose Mourinho was an honour. With Conte, when we were able to win the Premier League. I remember even Harry Redknapp when I was really young and we were able to win the FA Cup and the success we had at Stoke with Tony Pulis and Mark Hughes… so a lot of different managers, everyone. I’ve learned so many different things from all of them.

They’ve all had their own impact on my careers and helped me achieve the things that I have. And obviously, given the trust in me that they did. So, it has been a pleasure to play for all of them. We’ve got a really good manager now as well. I’m learning from him every day and hopefully, I get to play three or four more years and we’ll see who else four.

Goalkeeping is an unforgiving role. What processes do you follow to keep yourself distracted from the spotlight?

I think the mental aspect — dealing with mistakes or setbacks — I think it’s something that’s ingrained in you from a very young age. And I think it should be because that’s just a part of the game. You have to, of course, that’s why we work so hard every day to make sure we minimize them, keep them to an absolute minimum.

And, so, they don’t happen very often, but when they do, you have to accept them and move on. The most critical thing when things don’t go your way is to make sure they don’t accelerate and make into more. And I think if you can keep them to a minimum, then obviously, that’s what most managers and people running clubs will look for.

You have worked with VAR in the Premier League, and now, you are working without the technology at the Championships. What do you prefer?

I think VAR was brought in to help the game and help the officials, and make sure we reduce the amount of errors that happen in a football match. And I think there’s still a lot of work to be done. I think there’s a more natural feel when there’s no VAR. You can, kind of, enjoy the game a little bit more and just get on with things. VAR is not perfect. It’s only been around for a short period of time, of course.

And I’m sure as the years go on, it’s going to be developed and get better. There’s no perfect solution for all of this. And I’m sure that people in power will make the necessary adjustments to make it a better tool for everyone to use.

There has been a first-season syndrome with goalkeepers, particularly in the Premier League. Most recently, Andre Onana seems to be struggling with it at Manchester United. How does one cope with that?

I think, for players in general, whenever you make a big move and you change countries and you change different leagues and cultures and ways of playing, I think there’s always a period of adjustment. There’s no getting away from it. For some players, it maybe takes a bit longer. Everyone has their own individual case. I think especially if you have families, there’s probably things on and off the pitch you have to organize and get things in place.

So, it takes a bit of time and that’s the crazy thing as well. When you’re in some of the biggest clubs in the world, the spotlight is so big, the pressure is very high that obviously there’s no room for mistakes. And whenever a little mistake happens, it gets magnified and it becomes a very extreme situation.

These guys know they’ve played at the highest level for such a long time. They know how to cope with these things. And, I’m sure as time goes on, they become more and more comfortable with their situation.

The criticism on social media also makes a major difference, I suppose…

Times have moved on, right? There are different expectations and pressures now than there were many years ago. And you evolve with that. I think even now, the good thing with football is that people are getting educated younger on how to deal with these things and have their own sort of coping mechanisms and strategies.

Ultimately, it’s out there, but if you don’t want to get involved, you don’t have to. So, I think it’s about trying to focus on things as soon as you can. And at the earlier ages, managing these things and finding out what makes you tick and what makes you comfortable and then sticking with that is important.

Let’s talk about the only goal that you scored. An incredible one, against Southampton. But as soon as you put the ball inside the net, you shook your head. Were you a little embarrassed with that?

Yeah, it was obviously a special moment. As time goes on, you realize how special and how unique it was, and how rare it is. And it’s just… when I imagined scoring a goal, it wasn’t in those circumstances. That’s why I didn’t really know what to do with myself, to be honest.

And of course, I had to be a little bit of respectful, being a goalkeeper myself. And the fact that I don’t show a huge amount of emotion on the pitch… it all played a role. But I certainly enjoyed it and I probably appreciate it even more now.

Have you started thinking about retirement?

Well, yes and no. I’m really so focused on doing my job every day, and I think it takes a lot of energy to commit to playing and training at a high level every day. So I don’t give too much thought there. But I’m very lucky. I’ve started my own goalkeeping brand, AB1GK, which, again, gives me an opportunity to grow it further after my career, with my academies and the product. So, it’s a lot of fun to do that. I’ve done some of my coaching badges already, with B licenses in both outfield and goalkeeping.

So, we’ll see, I’m going to keep all those options open for now. I don’t quite see the end at playing just yet. And I want to keep going as long as I can. And then, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

How do you look back at your international career? You represented Canada, then shifted back to Bosnia.

Well, I was born in Bosnia. We were displaced due to the conflict. I shifted to Canada and then in my teenage years, when my football career started to get going, I was representing Canada. But I understood there was always this potential to represent my country of birth, Bosnia, but the opportunity didn’t come until 2009.

And then I had to make a decision. And I thought it was the best decision for my family, and my football. And, it worked out really well. I mean, we had some amazing success, amazing experiences. Overall, I don’t feel like it was fulfilled. I think our generation, and with our federation, we could have qualified for more tournaments and had more success. But we’ll really cherish and still look back at some of the good memories with a lot of pride.

And it’s something that no one can take away from us.

You have played in different leagues. Which did you find the toughest?

I think the championships are up there. I think it’s so relentless. There’s so many good teams. It’s very difficult, but I think it goes without saying the Premier League is the biggest and toughest league in the world. It’s physically demanding, and technically demanding because of so many good players and so many good teams. When you go from top to bottom, the level of play is incredible. And then, when you come to the championship and it’s, it’s kind of continued down here.

England is a very unique country in the fact that there’s so much depth in football and so much passion for the game. I definitely think the biggest challenges is to play in England.

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