Updated: Dec 9, 2020
*Globally Ballin is based in the United States, because of that the writers often use the word "soccer." Keep in mind the writer understand that "soccer" is not a global term, but it is the term that will be used in this article*
I'll be honest with all of you, I am quite the novice when it comes to soccer opportunities around the world. If I were to tell you the best places to play soccer, I would say "Europe...ish" and then get quiet. However, the spirit of Globally Ballin is to look at sporting opportunities around the world, the likes of which, you hopefully are unfamiliar. So, today, let's look at soccer, but in a new place (for some of you), Indonesia.
That brings us to the spotlight of our article, Ante Bakmaz. Bakmaz is an Australian-born soccer player now playing professional soccer in Indonesia. However, the journey of Bakmaz does not begin in Indonesia, instead, he had a few stops around the world.
Bakmaz's journey began back when he was six and got to watch his cousin compete in the World Cup with the Croatian squad. From then on, Bakmaz knew that was what his life was to become. The dream continued on for Bakmaz as he jumped throughout the semi-pro life and eventually signed his first professional contract in Malta with St. Andrews.
After he got his professional start, Bakmaz continued to move on to different opportunities and teams. When referring to his changes between teams and countries, Ante responded, "Sometimes after a season I felt it was time to move on and challenge myself as a player as I always wanted to grow my career." Of course, one of the goals of Globally Ballin is to provide information for other players and fans about what it is like to play in different countries and leagues. So, to that end, we asked Bakmaz, which one of the countries had the strongest game-day atmosphere? Bakmaz responded, "I can't go past Indonesia and Lebanon. Those two places are on a different level in regard to intimidation and strong atmospheres. Whether it was pyro, tifo, police presence, pitch innovation you can pick! In regards to beautiful occasions. I made my Europa League debut in Hungary against Ferencvaros in the Hungarian national stadium (Groupama Arena) the pitch and stadium was amazing"
Finally, after his season in Lebanon, Bakmaz had greatly enjoyed the taste of Asian/Arab soccer and wanted to return to it the following year. However, he was presented with an offer to join Madura United in Indonesia. Bakmaz described Madura United as a "fantastic club pushing for the title." Although he ended up leaving Lebanon, he did rank the food in Lebanon as the best that he got throughout all of his time traveling. When he first arrived, his first impression was that of awe when he saw the speed and technicality of the players.
Curtesy of Ante's Instagram (@bakmz)
Since he has been there, Bakmaz has cited the highlight of his time in Indonesia so far as the first game in GBK in Jakarta against Persija. However, all the home victories in Madrua, Bangkalan, as well as, the victories against Bali United in front of the Bali fans were a close second. In addition, Bakmaz added, "For Persik was probably our 1-1 draw against Persebaya in a sold-out GBT 50,000." Playing in front of 50,000 screaming fans, you would think those players are absolutely celebrities, to that end, Bakmaz said, "From the outside yes however I try to stay away from this celebrity tag and all the ego that comes with it. I like to speak to people. Just by playing football doesn't make me more important than someone selling meatballs in the street. We are all people!"
Fans, this last part is for you specifically. Have you ever wondered what someone from the outside thought about your country, city, team, stadium? Because the communication between the athlete and the fan can be somewhat distant at times, we wanted someone from the outside (not from Indonesia) to explain what the soccer experience has been to them; we believe that giving the players this opportunity is a powerful view for the fans. So, when asked what Bakmaz would like the fans to know about his experience and his perspective, Bakmaz, said, "Football in Indonesia is amazing. It has it all, the stadiums, players, fans and now slowly the TV coverage is fantastic. Social media and the whole ability to interact with players is extremely good. Indonesians live for football so it's only fair you show this on the field for the people that you represent every week." As the last word from Bakmaz to the fans, he added, "I can say to all the Indonesian people that I miss you all and hope everyone is keeping safe during this corona period. I hope football can return fast to the fields of Indonesia. In the meantime, I'm keeping fit, keeping ready and waiting for the return day."
Indonesia, we have not talked with many athletes who have come to play in your country yet. However, after talking with Bakmaz, it is clear that what you have to offer, your fans, your passion, your opportunities, you are a country in which players should be honored to play. You have clearly made a wonderful impression in the eyes of one import, keep up the good work.