With AZ Alkmaar striker Aron Johannsson having chosen to represent the country of his birth instead of Iceland, the topic of “the choice” has returned to the forefront amongst U.S. fans. Indeed, this current U.S. roster is populated with players who chose to represent the United States – Edgar Castillo, Mix Diskerud, Fabian Johnson, and Jermaine Jones.
But the United States is certainly not the only team that has been impacted by these decisions. Bosnia goalkeeper Asmir Begovic was born in Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and later moved to Germany and then Canada. He represented Canada in the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup and had actually been called into the senior team for both the Gold Cup and World Cup qualifiers, but never saw action.
At the age of 21, he decided to commit to the country of his birth. He admits it was a very difficult decision.
“It’s not an easy choice by any means. It was a difficult thing that I thought about a lot,” Bergovic said. “It was a family decision in the end as well. I was born in Bosnia, my whole family is Bosnian and I had a lot of family ties here which I didn’t have in Canada. The passion for football and the standard of football here has been important, and that’s something what I wanted to be a part of. In Canada, soccer doesn’t play as big a part as it does here. Getting the chance to play in quality, competitive games in front of my home people is why I made the decision in the end.”
As with any player who has already represented one country, the topic of changing associations brings out a lot of debate on both sides. Bergovic felt the most important thing was to make the right choice for him and his family.
“When you make the decision, both sides are pulling you towards their side. That’s why you have to step away from everything and discuss it with your family and overlook the big picture.”
He can certainly empathize will players like Johannsson and others who face this circumstance, and his advice is simple.
“Do what you feel is right at the time. We went through all the facts: family, football, personal feelings. Know that you are going to upset some people, but hopefully as time goes by people realize you try to make the best decision for you and your family.”
The Stoke City ‘keeper is now the first choice for club and country, and hopefully will backstop Bosnia to its first ever appearance in the FIFA World Cup. Looking back, he feels fortunate to have followed this path.
“I knew that going forward that – coming to play for Bosnia – was going to be better for my future... The exposure to international football and playing against top players all the time has made me a better player. I’m lucky it’s worked out.”