It was an eventful season former Premier League Champions Chelsea, with Dutch manager Guus Hiddink taking over the reigns from former boss Jose Mourinho in December. SAMSON managed to catch up with one of Chelsea's additions to the squad, Bosnia & Herzegovina International goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who joined Chelsea in the summer in a big money transfer from Stoke City. It was an opportunity to speak to him about his move to London, his hopes for the future with both club and country, and also the unique competition he has with fellow world class Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
MJ: Thanks for speaking to us Asmir. First of all, how have you and the family settled in London since moving from Stoke last summer?
AB: It's never easy to move house and we really enjoyed living in the Stoke area, but I must say we have settled really well here in London. The whole family loves the city and we are really happy here.
MJ: That's good to hear. So was it a difficult decision to leave Stoke to join Chelsea or has it always been your aim to play for a ‘top four’ club?
AB: Of course it was difficult; I’ve spent five beautiful years with Stoke and I love the club and the fans. However, I felt it was the right time to move on and to try something different in my career. I’ve always wanted to play in the Champions League and to work with coaches like Mourinho and Hiddink. It has always been an aim of mine to play and compete with the very best in the game. I needed a new challenge and I believe Chelsea was a very good choice for me.
MJ: Being a Goalkeeper is a very specialised position of course and it is quite rare to have two World-class goalkeepers at one club at the same time. Do you enjoy the competition between yourself and Thibaut Courtois and would you say this competition has improved you as a player since you've been at Chelsea?
AB: I believe competition between players is always a good thing at any Football club. I moved to Chelsea because I wanted to be a part of one of the best clubs in the world and to work everyday with the top players in the game. This is why it has been a good move for me, so yes I would definitely say I have improved as a player since being at Chelsea.
MJ: If we talk about the specific skills needed for a player in your position, it is clear that a goalkeeper requires excellent mental skills and concentration levels. How do you prepare yourself mentally before a game and do you do any extra work on this in training?
AB: I work very hard on every aspect of my game, but I must say that I think the concentration and mental skills is something that you gain over time with the experience of playing in many matches. The most important aspect is to learn how to handle the pressure of matches and to be able to cope with any mistakes that you might make, because everyone makes mistakes no matter who you are. I try to learn from every single training session and from every match that I play in. I also focus on having a positive attitude because it keeps me calm, and helps me concentrate on my job.
MJ: It was an eventful season at Chelsea and you've already worked under two top class managers in Jose Mourinho and Guus Hiddink. How would you say their styles of management differ from each other?
AB: Well, at this level of football it is actually quite difficult to differ much – there are a lot of games in the Premier League, Champions League and Cup competitions, so everything is adapted and geared to that. However, I think I’ve learned something from both of them; Jose and Guus are both great managers in their own right.
MJ: You've played a lot of domestic and International games in your career so far, who would you say are the best strikers you've come up against and do you do any special preparation or research when facing these players?
AB: Obviously, having Lionel Messi on the opposition side was an interesting experience for me, as well as playing against Cristiano Ronaldo. During my time in the Premier league I guess Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero were two strikers that really impressed me. I do follow a lot of matches and watch out for players like that and we do have some special preparations for possible situations that I may face, but in general, I do not do any special kind of research on the opposition strikers.
"I AM WORKING VERY HARD EACH DAY AND WAITING FOR MY CHANCE TO COME. IF THAT HAPPENS, THEN I WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT I DEMONSTRATE THAT I DESERVE THAT CHANCE. "
~ ASMIR BEGOVIC
MJ: So which goalkeepers did you look up to and admire when you were younger?
AB: I’ve always admired the way Oliver Kahn played during his time at Bayern Munich. He was a fantastic goalkeeper and also a very interesting character. In terms of players I've worked with it was a great experience being around David James and when we were both at Portsmouth together.
MJ: From your own experiences, what advice would you give a young goalkeeper who has ambitions of playing in the Premier League?
AB: I would definitely say work as much as possible; there is no other better advice. Also make sure that you listen carefully to your coaches. So work hard and then work harder... there is no other way to get to the top!
MJ: If we can talk a bit about your International hopes for the future, what do you believe the Bosnian & Herzegovina national team are capable of over the next few years?
AB: To be honest, I am still very disappointed that we did not manage to qualify for the Euro's this summer. We have a very good team, with some fantastic individual players and I believe we should have performed better in the qualifiers. However, we are focused on the next campaign; it will be difficult, but the goal is the same, to get to the 2018 World Cup.
MJ: And finally Asmir, how is the Asmir Begovic foundation going and what are the plans for the future?
AB: I am proud to say that we’ve realised a couple of big projects in Bosnia & Herzegovina and also in England over the last two years. The idea of the foundation is to help local communities build sporting facilities in their area. I believe it is very important to invest in future generations. Participating in sports activities is a great way for kids to have fun and also to learn many different life skills such as interacting with other young people.
SPORTS EDITOR | SAMSON