Exclusive interview with Beşiktaş legend Jaroslaw Bako

Updated: April 6, 2017

Beşiktaş International author Filip Cleslinski recent had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Beşiktaş legend, former Polish international goalkeeper Jaroslaw Bako.

Bako, now 52, played for the Black Eagles between 1991 and 1993 and was part of the tailend of the previous Beşiktaş ‘golden generation’ under Gordon Milne, which included stars Metin Tekin, Feyyaz Uçar and Ali Gültiken but also the rising stars Mehmet Özdilek and Sergen Yalçin.

Recently I came across a ranking on the internet of the top 10 goalkeepers in the history of Beşiktaş, as voted by the fans. The first five was impressive – two legends of the 50s and 60s of last century, Rüştü Reçber, Óscar Córdoba and … you!

“That’s nice. I was leaving for Turkey from my current hometown, from Lubin. With my local team we just won the championship of Poland and the opportunity to play for Beşiktaş came just after. The previous Beşiktaş’ goalkeeper (Engin İpekoğlu) was leaving for Fenerbahçe and they needed a substitute. As for the transfers, those days there were not so many agents or managers there. There was only some Turkish group of people who handled the transfer of Kosecki to Galatasaray or later the one of Soczyński to Fenerbahçe…”

Bako opened up to Filip about his time spent in İstanbul with the Black Eagles, the good and bad and whether Polish players should consider moving to Turkey in the future.

And they came also for you.

“Exactly. I may say that I made this decision in half an hour. In Poland it was Jurek Kopa who helped me dealing with the details. The car came for me, we had very little time to pack our things up and to scoot to the airport. Times were different then. If everything was not organized immediately, the transfer could have fallen through. I remember that we were speeding to the airport – the routes were definitely worse then. Instead of three hours on the freeway you spent twice as that to get to Warsaw. We reached the city in 5 hours or even in 4,5. It was practically a race. Fortunately, we made it somehow. But it was a close call I have to say.”

So first speeding records and then landing in a completely different culture. Do you remember the first impression than Istanbul made on you?

“Yes, that was a shock. At the airport there was a whole bunch of journalists. Such media interest I did not even have at the training camps of the Polish national team. But actually the real madness began when I started to play and live in Turkey. With this moment it was clear for me how much they love football there. It’s an interest that can be compared to religion.” 

Because of this madness Roman Dąbrowski (Kaan Dobra), who came to Besiktas over a decade later, chose living 80 kilometers away, in the city of Kocaeli. Did you live in Istanbul?

“Yes. And you have to know that the interest of the media or fans was not the only thing you needed to get used to. Having a flat near the mosque, you could hear the Imam calling to prayers five times a day. He was waking me up at dawn and then reminding of himself few times a day.”

You mentioned the fans. Because of them Turkey is well known around the world. Was it dangerous in the city of three competing teams?

“I saw only positive reactions. I was lucky enough to be a part of a two-year period in which we practically did not lose. First we won the championship without a defeat. Then the difference of goals decided that we did not manage to defend the title.” (Galatasaray won the title in 1992 in controversial fashion)

Jaroslaw Bako is currently a goalkeeping coach for his local club Zagłębia Lubin.

“The streets were full of spontaneous, positive reactions from the fans. By and by, however, it became even annoying. When we were walking with my wife and somebody realized that I was a Beşiktaş player there was a group of fans around us immediately.”

“- Bako, Bako, Bako! – I heard.

– But where? – I was replying, trying to turn the whole thing into a joke.”

“Overall it was a great experience. And peacefully. It was worse in other clubs. In Fenerbahçe there were situations in which fans ran to the pitch during training sessions and even beat the players. The city itself, however, makes a very good impression. I took my wife there. And it was Istanbul where my younger daughter was born. I have very good memories from there.”

 And what about money? Totally different situation than in Lubin?

Playing for 8 years in Polish Ekstraklasa I was practically all the time playing in the colors of one club – ŁKS Łódź. I wasn’t minting money there. There was no chance of making money there. I came across another reality with my transfer to Zaglebie Lubin. As a NT player I was offered a high raise, it was a huge difference for me. You could earn worthily there. When I started playing for a promoted team I risked a lot but Lubin knew how to reward this risk.”

“However, I have to admit that even in comparison with a really well-paying Zaglebie, Turkey was still a better offer. The money I was offered there could not be earned anywhere in Poland.”

There were some Polish players in Turkey then. Have you been sticking together?

“We had a huge bunch of people there! Roman Kosecki, Piotr Nowak, Jarek Araszkiewicz, Piotr Soczyński, myself and Adam Zejer. Jacek Cyzio from Trabzon was joining us from time to time. When he was playing in Istanbul he was always staying with us for a day or more. We had a time to chat, to meet up… We were all really good friends there.”

How about relations with the Turks and the foreign players? Did you have time to buddy up with your teammates with this number of Polish players there?

“Sure. We matched up very fast. Probably I was in a worse position cause I was very impulsive. Turks, the southerners, they are impulsive aswell but they were shocked that I was able to shout out at my teammates during the match. Thankfully, finally, they got used to it.”

“Myself and Adam, we had a translator. Hence, coach Gordon Milne was a Brit so we were able to talk in English. Of course going to another country you have to learn some basic words or phrases to communicate with defenders. In the end I think it all went smoothly.”

When you were a Beşiktaş player there were a lot of huge stars and future club legends. Who was the best in your opinion?

“I loved to play with my defenders, they were unstoppable. In the Turkish national team we had such players as Recep, Gökhan and Riza. The last one was our captain. At that time more than a half of the Turkish national team were Beşiktaş players. We were powerful.”

Not only the players but also the great president Süleyman Seba became history.

“Of course, I remember him. However, we did not have a close relationship. He was an icon. He appeared only during the big events. We haven’t been in touch before the games. He gained respect among the players and fans as well. He was a huge persona and was known as the best president we could have.”

“I have to say that I have great memories of the whole of Turkey. Nowadays, when I go there with my team on training camps, it’s always warmer in the heart when somebody recognize me and remind me of my time in Beşiktaş.”

Having in mind all your experiences do you think that Turkey is a good choice for Polish players?

Jaroslaw Bako was part of the Beşiktaş side that won their 3rd consecutive title in 1991 and the last ‘golden generation’

“Of course. But only for those who love high temperatures. That was not a problem for me so I felt perfect there. I have to say that Turkey is not only a great place to play football but also a beautiful and very interesting country. During a year 10 months were for football, one month for visiting my hometown with my family and the last one was for exploring Turkey. I fell in love with Turkish food. Since then I am a huge fan of the Mediterranean kitchen. Now, I even don’t eat meat now so that kind of kitchen is ideal for me.”

Good money, a nice city, a great team and many successes. It sounded like a fairytale. Why this fairytale ended after only two years? I don’t believe that the club didn’t want you for the next seasons.

“The story was totally different. In the end of the season the club had some delays in my payment. That was the reason I was hesitating whether to stay or to go back home. Finally I decided to go home. As they treated me that way I didn’t want to stay there and wait. I left my representative in Istanbul. Finally I get all the money but it was too late. The transfer window was closed and I had to stay in Poland.”

Do you still follow the Beşiktaş games?

“I try to stay up to date. I always keep my fingers crossed for Beşiktaş. Unfortunately none of my former teammates are in the club at the moment so now it is only about good memories and the colors. It is nice to know that the journalists who made fun of us when myself and Kosecki went to Turkish clubs, regret their words now as Beşiktaş, Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe are among the best European teams nowadays. Now we know that we made very good choices then.”

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Filip Cieśliński

I have been in love with Turkish football since 2010, every other year more and more. Fortunately I find a way to add it to my second passion, which is actually my job - sports journalism. I've already experienced adventures in Radio, TV, websites and newspapers. I'm currently part of a sports newsroom for one of the biggest Polish newspapers "Fakt" and am involved in some other projects of publisher Ringier Axel Springer Polska.

Warsaw, Poland
Filip Cieśliński
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