Ante Jazic is about as well traveled a soccer player you’ll find.
The retired Canadian international started his lauded career in Croatia before moving to Russia and finally stateside with MLS, playing seven seasons with the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA. He retired in 2012 and currently works as a coach with Canada’s Under-15 national team.
With the continual debate over whether MLS or European leagues offers better opportunities for international stars, Jazic has a unique perspective. He especially for a North American player heading overseas, which he offered up in a Q&A with the Canadian Soccer Association website.
“Once you adapt and become accustomed to the nature of the game [in Europe], it becomes easier,” he said. “But initially the first one or two years are critical for any player. But, gradually, the homesickness passed and I was able to overcome my deficiencies. You have to be mentally strong, to be able to withstand all of the initial issues.”
He said once his career began to develop, the importance of being in the right situation, as opposed to going wherever the money is best, can’t be understated. It is a theme that appears to be especially relevant in today’s game, as a number of US and Canadian internationals have returned home to play in MLS, including Americans Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey and Canadians Issey-Nakajima-Farran and Rob Friend.
According to Jazic, his move from Croatia -- where his parents are from -- to Russia didn’t turn out for that very reason.
“It’s difficult when you wake up every day and you don’t have that passion to train,” he said. “For a footballer, once that passion is gone, your performances suffer. For me [after Russia], I made the decision that if I wanted to continue playing, I would have to go to a location where I’m going to enjoy my football, where I’m going to enjoy training and enjoy the daily grind. And not think about the money. That’s why I came to MLS.”
As for his current role in the Canadian set up, Jazic sees a bright future, provided Canada can identify and develop young players through youth programs and talent-identification events.
“It’s important because it’s the only way a player is going to grow,” he said. “Once a player, especially at a youth age, becomes complacent – where they know they can dominate a game or a training session without getting pushed – that’s when they plateau. But, if they’re pushed every day in a competitive environment, where they are forced to get better, then the sky is the limit.”