Born in Spain, Jon Bakero has never known life without soccer. As the son of Spanish international Jose Mari Bakero – who played at both the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cup for his country - Jon grew up around the game. When the door opened for Jon to attend Wake Forest and play NCAA Division I soccer in the United States, he seized the opportunity.
Now in his third season with Phoenix Rising FC, Jon has continued to push himself to stay true to his family’s values on and off the field. He spoke with the USL’s Maury Urcadez about his journey, his family and the recent completion of his master's degree.
Q: At 17, you made this decision to come and live in the United States. Tell us a little about that process, how did you get to the United States?
Jon Bakero: At the age of 17 I was playing in Barcelona, in a club in my city and well, in the end the opportunity arose to come to the United States to continue studying and to play soccer at a good level. For me I had always wanted to come to the United States, and it was an easy decision. I am fortunate to have been able to live the experiences that I have had so far and the doors that were opened for me here playing soccer in the United States.
Q: How was that experience for you, playing at Wake Forest and studying while also chasing that dream of one day becoming a professional soccer player?
JB: My dream has always been to be a professional soccer player. At the end of the day, I think my decision to come here opened many doors for me and the experience at Wake was amazing. I don't think I could have gone to a better place. I think that those three-and-a-half years at university, apart from the university degree, helped me grow as a player, to take that last step that I still needed to be able to make the leap to professional soccer and the truth is, I am very grateful for everyone there. Because of the experience I had, I know that this step helped me to be where I am today.
Q: Soccer and education are still a big part of your life. Recently, you posted that you got your master’s degree while playing for Phoenix Rising. How did you manage your schedule and how did you stay motivated during that stage of your life?
JB: Education for me and my family has always been something very important. So, when I finished college, I started playing professionally and I realized that as a soccer player we have a lot of free time. I think it is a perfect time to continue educating ourselves, to continue growing, to learn, which I think is something that we should never stop doing. The truth is it was easy doing it online. I trained in the morning and then a couple of hours in the afternoon online. At the moment it was a little more difficult to do, but obviously I am very proud of getting my master’s degree. Now I’m already thinking about the following challenges and how I can continue to grow and learn.
Q: Your bio on Twitter says, “Always with my family,” but they don’t live in Phoenix, I’m assuming. How do you stay connected to them?
JB: Yes, for me that is very important. As I said before, because I grew up moving from country to country, from city to city, at the end of the day the only thing I have are my parents and my sister, for me they are very important. Even in these seven years that I have been away, I talk to them daily, we call each other on the phone every day and although they are far away, they are part of my day to day, and they are part of all the decisions I make. I am very lucky I have people who love me and support me from afar.