Ante Jazić proudly wearing HFX Wanderers FC gear at his home in Arkansas.
When the HFX Wanderers begin play in the Canadian Premier League next spring, one of Nova Scotia’s best ever players will be cheering them on.
Ante Jazić, who played 36 times for Team Canada, only wishes the Wanderers were around when he was a young player.
“It’s exciting times, when I played you had to leave the province to play at a higher level,” he said.
That’s exactly what the Bedford born player did.
Well, that’s after he won provincial titles with Suburban United and a national championship with the Dalhousie Tigers.
He was also a key member of powerhouse amateur team, Halifax King of Donair.
From Bedford to Europe
It was on a visit to see relatives in Croatia that Jazić’s uncle organized a tryout for him with a local team.
“I wasn’t planning it, I didn’t even have boots!” he said.
But that didn’t stop him from winning a pro contract with NK Hrvatski Dragovoljac. Later earning a move to Hajduk Split and then playing for Rapid Vienna.
He would move on to a spell with Kuban Krasnodar in Russia before signing for the LA Galaxy in Major League Soccer and finally Chivas USA.
The former left full-back is proud of his tally of 345 professional appearances, in a career that spanned 17 years.
He just wishes there was a way he could have avoided the homesickness that made it even tougher it at the start, when he was fighting to get his career going as a 19 year old in a foreign country.
“I think the most exciting thing now is that kids have the ability to dream to become professional footballers in Nova Scotia, having a proper pathway to a professional career,” he said.
Jazić will always be grateful to Stephen Hart for the pathway he followed.
“He was a great role model for me,” he said of the now HFX Wanderers head coach. “He was really passionate about the game.”
‘No better person to lead a new team’
During the time he was at Soccer Nova Scotia, Hart had spotted Jazić as a talent.
Impressed by his technical ability as well as his dedication and desire to improve, Hart went on to become the kind of mentor that helped shape his career.
There were times Stephen Hart even drove the young Jazić from Bedford to Halifax to specially prepare him and train him for national youth camps.
“He didn’t have to do that,” recalls Jazić fondly.
After about 30 years of seeing Stephen Hart coach every level of player from kids to full Canadian Internationals, not many people know him as well as Ante Jazić.
“Stephen truly knows the game and is passionate about developing players and doing things the right way and there’s no better person to lead a new team,” he said.
Ante Jazić, now lives in Arkansas with his wife Annemarie, but will be following the progress of the Wanderers when the CPL kicks off.
CPL a pathway for kids to ‘pursue their dreams’
Knowing the Wanderers Grounds well, Jazić is anticipating a “wonderful atmosphere” at the downtown stadium, creating the right kind of environment for young players to flourish.
“We’ve missed a lot of players because we didn’t have a proper pathway,” he explained. “ That’s not going to be the case anymore, these kids can pursue their dreams.”
With an accomplished coach and the Maritime region’s passion for the game, Jazić is expecting big things for the Wanderers in the new professional league he’s always hoped for in Canada.