Baggott is a new name for Ipswich fans... but the Indonesia youngster is already a social media hit tracked by thousands
- Credit: Archant
Elkan Baggott made his Ipswich Town debut against Gillingham in the EFL Trophy last night. Andy Warren takes a look at a young man with a story to tell.
Ipswich Town fans got their first look at young defender Elkan Baggott last night, but the teenager has already made a name for himself on the other side of the world.
The young centre-back made his Town debut in the EFL Trophy clash with Gillingham, starting in the centre of defence alongside Luke Woolfenden and acquitting himself well despite facing a Gills side including plenty of senior experience and the strong, combative John Akinde.
The 17-year-old’s left footed, tall, mobile and vocal, showing those attributes during his debut as he came on strong as confidence grew following early nerves, as the Blues kept a clean sheet and secured victory.
This was likely the first time most Town fans will have heard of the teenager, who signed scholarship forms last year, but thousands of football fans in Asia have been following the defender closely for some time.
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Baggott has an English father and an Indonesian mother, with supporters in the latter football mad and keen to follow the fortunes of a young player who could one day represent them at full international level.
He has a 50,000-strong Instagram following which makes him far and away the most followed player at the club – more than double that of social media star James Norwood (18,000).
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Each of his posts is ‘liked’ more than 10,000 times and, since it became clear he could be involved for Town in this game, interest from the Far East began to soar.
YouTube is packed with videos discussing his talents, each clocking up thousands (in some cases hundreds of thousands) of views, while his first interview with the Indonesian FA (PSSI) has been viewed more than a million times in the last month.
The fact he joined up with the Indonesian Under 19s earlier this summer and put himself on the path to the full squad was a cause for celebration in the Asian country, where he was schooled before moving to England in 2011, with Baggott clearly excited to be representing a country where he still has plenty of family members.
He was given special dispensation to arrive late for international duty to be able to play in this game and will join up with his young team-mates later this week.
“I feel proud and honoured to represent my country and I can’t wait to get going with my team and winning some competitions and trophies,” he said in an interview with PSSI.
“My hopes are to get into the team and to win the AFC and then do well in the World Cup. They are my long-term goals.
“On the ball is one of my strengths but I’m aggressive and I’d like to say I’m solid in the back line and a leader as well,” he continued.
“My role models are Virgil van Dijk and previously Rio Ferdinand. I try to base my game around van Dijk but Ferdinand is just the definition of a quality centre-back, so I try and base my game around those two.
“My family are very proud because I have a lot based here in Jakarta and my friends try to keep me grounded. All my closest family live here and I just want to represent them and make me proud.”
While international football and the World Cup is a long-term goal, progress at Portman Road is now the aim for a young player who is talented, grounded, intelligent and polite and who has got off to a good start.
His next opportunity could come at Crawley next month when Town finish their EFL Trophy group schedule, while he’s likely to play plenty of football at Under 23 level. With his 18th birthday just a few weeks away, a professional contract has to be the target for a player highly rated by those at Portman Road.
Manager Paul Lambert said after last night’s game that he didn’t want to single out individual players because ‘you never know how young players will be affected’ once they’ve broken into the team. But Baggott is used to the attention and appears well placed to handle everything coming his way, both in Indonesia and Ipswich.
Few Town fans will witness him play football over the next few months but, what’s clear, is that there are thousands around the world tracking his progress extremely closely.