Long before he was winning the Premier League or playing at the World Cup, Asmir Begovic was learning the family trade under his father.
Also a goalkeeper, Amir was a former Yugoslavia youth team international who also turned out for FK Leotar in Trebinje, where son Asmir was born, and NK Iskra in Bugojno.
War saw the family relocate to Germany when Asmir was just four years old, though the move was also the first step in the younger Begovic’s career - all under the caring tutelage of his father.
Ahead of Father’s Day – this year also falling on the ‘keeper’s 34th birthday – Asmir spoke to afcb.co.uk about the essential role his dad had in preparing him for the success he would have in his career.
He started: “Once we went to Germany I was my dad’s little follower and mascot, I was following him around and he was trying to coach me at a young age, we had a very close relationship.
“My dad was my hero growing up, I don’t have too many memories of him playing in Bosnia, the former Yugoslavia, because I was so young before we left.
“I know he played at a very good level and that’s what made me get into goalkeeping myself, it was just a natural thing to do.
“He started coaching me in Germany at a young age, I started playing organised football at five and we’d do extra sessions because as a goalkeeper it’s very difficult to get coaching.
“I had that on my doorstep at home so for me that was incredibly handy and he started coaching me right away at ages six or seven and took it on from there.
“At around nine or ten I had some German clubs sniffing around me, asking about my situation and showing some interest in what I was doing. That was probably the time I was thinking, ‘This could really be something’.”
A FATHERLY SOUNDING BOARD
After six years in Germany the Begovics were on the move again, this time to Alberta in Canada, where Asmir’s fledgling career would continue to build, following in his father’s footsteps by winning youth international honours, with his adopted homeland in North America.
Moving to the UK with Portsmouth while still a teenager, Asmir’s parents also returned to Europe, resettling in Germany. His father still tunes in to all of his son’s matches and is able to use his vast experience to offer his thoughts.
“I’ll ask him what he thinks about things,” explained Asmir. “I like to get his opinion and he always gives me pointers where maybe I could have done this or done that.
“At this stage it’s a very mature conversation, a bit about everything, whereas when I was younger it was probably a little bit more critical because I was learning the game so I needed that, now I know what I’m doing but I ask what it looked like to him.
“Sometimes it’s more from a supportive side because he’s been there and he’s just very happy to support me the best he can.”
WORKING TOGETHER WITH THE NEXT GENERATION
The relationship is strong not only when it comes to matters on the pitch but also with Asmir’s goalkeeping academy, which has bases in the UK, Bosnia and in Germany.
“My dad works and runs my goalkeeper academy in Germany, he follows all of my games very closely and is always my sounding board. He still plays a huge role in my life.
“We started last September and it’s been a bit stop-start because of Covid, we probably haven’t got into the flow of everything yet but that’s going to come as things start to open up.
“There’s no better person to run things and it gives him an interest. He loves coaching and he’s always been coaching goalkeepers anyway so now to do it in a bit more of a formal fashion is working out really well.
“It’s brilliant, we’ve had three camps, our fourth is coming up in Bosnia. It’s our first year in the UK and we’d love to do one in Germany as well when the restrictions allow.
“We’re passionate about goalkeeping and if we can teach the kids something and inspire them a little bit of what we’ve accumulated over the years then that’s brilliant.
“Every day has been a blast, it’s a lot of fun and obviously a passion of mine, making for really good days all around.”
POTENTIALLY HANDING DOWN THE GLOVES
What of the next generation and a continuation of the goalkeeping gene?
Asmir and wife Nicolle, an international dressage rider, have two daughters, Taylor and Blair, with four-year-old Blair seemingly more likely to inherit her father’s gloves in the future.
“Yeah, why not?” chuckled Begovic of his daughter’s chances. “Hope Solo, Karen Bardsley, Carly Telford, there’s a lot of inspiration in the women’s game so you never know!
“My kids are very active. My eldest Taylor is not into football whatsoever, she’s into performing arts while my youngest is doing a few football classes now so we’ll see where she goes.
“She’s only four so we’ll give her a little bit more time to work out what she wants to do.
“I’ve got nothing crazy planned for Father’s Day this year, I’m not a huge celebration guy, even this year when my birthday actually falls on the same day this year, which is quite unique.
“As long as I get to spend the day with my wife, my kids and as much of my family as possible that’s what it’s all about.”