One of my favorite things about doing ¡Qué Golazo! -- aside from working with the powerhouses Jimmy Conrad, James Benge, Heath Pearce, Christina Unkel and Roger Gonzalez -- is doing one-on-one interviews with interesting players from all over the world. From Gonzalo Higuaín to Brenden Aaronson, it's refreshing to have a platform where a player can just sit down, relax and be more open about his or her thoughts on any given subject.
On our Champions League preview episode, we welcome a player who embodies the meaning of raw honesty. Demba Ba, the 35-year-old striker with a decorated and impressive resume, which includes tenures with Newcastle United, Chelsea, Besiktas and now, Istanbul Basaksehir.
Ba, who was born and raised in Paris from Senegalese parents, faces PSG on Wednesday, a team he knows too well. And, as he told me on the show, he is very much looking forward to the encounter.
Ba's relationship against PSG in the Champions League goes back to 2014, when he scored a late winner for Chelsea and eventually kicked the French giants out of the competition.
"Being from Paris, born in France, it's one of the greatest moments," Ba said in our interview. "Where I am from, being able to play in the Champions League is an achievement in itself. But sending Chelsea to the semifinals was a great moment for me."
Ba, a devoted Muslim who does a lot to nurture and support his community, also enjoys living in Turkey (this is now his third stint with a Turkish club) as it allows him and his family to carry on with their lives and religious obligations.
"Whatever I feel to do as a Muslim, or those who want to practice, it's a very tolerant country. So I really appreciate it, but also the passion of football," he said. "That's always something that keeps bringing me back here."
Before heading to Istanbul, Ba did consider MLS. But given America's conflict with racial injustice and its overall handling of the pandemic, he quickly changed his mind.
"When I see how the country is going right now, very difficult times -- for the whole world really -- but when you see what is happening in America, I ask, 'Do I want to go there?' Because when I go, I obviously go with my whole family," Ba said. "So I would have to educate my kids in a country that is going through a big crisis, and inequality of race? I don't really know."
You can also check out the interview below on YouTube, and don't forget to subscribe to ¡Qué Golazo! on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.