Ante Jazic is probably the greatest soccer player to ever come out of Nova Scotia, with a career that took him from the amateur Halifax King of Donair team to the national side and a pro career playing with the likes of David Beckham.
Metro caught up with the 34-year-old defender in California, where he was preparing for a practice with his current team, Major League Soccer’s Chivas USA.
Jazic says when he emerged on the soccer scene in the late 1990s, staying in Canada wasn’t an option.
“If I had stayed past 19, 20, 21 in Nova Scotia, I definitely wouldn’t be a professional soccer player,” he says. “Now, if you’re a talented kid ... there’s a chance.”
He did have a few lucky breaks with great youth coaches, including Stephen Hart, who is now the head coach for Canada. Jazic points to the success of MLS’s Toronto FC and expansion teams coming to Montreal and Vancouver as signs the game is growing in Canada. “Professional soccer is definitely an option,” he says. “You train hard, work hard, you have a chance.”
For Jazic, a pro career meant moving to his ancestral homeland of Croatia, where he played for several teams, and then elsewhere in Europe. He says he learned the technical and tactical side of the game on the high-pressure continent where soccer is king.
He made his debut on Canada’s national team in 1998 and has since played regularly on the world stage.
In 2006, he moved to the more athletic, physical game of MLS when he signed a contract with L.A. Galaxy. In 2007, Galaxy made international headlines when it landed English superstar David Beckham.
“It was great. David’s a great guy. It was definitely a circus the first year he came, but David’s a professional,” Jazic says. “He’s done great things for MLS.”
Jazic was traded to Chivas in 2009. Now that Canada and Croatia are out of the World Cup, he’s planning to just enjoy the poetry on the pitch.
“I have no preference who wins. I just want a good tournament,” he says.