Ganbayar Ganbold isn't a name many of you will recognise. But he is kind of a big deal at the moment. Touted as Mongolia's first potential superstar player, allow me to tell you more about Ganbayar and why he should be a player you keep your eyes on.
Ganbayar was born in Sükhbaatar, a northern city within the Selenge Province. Founded in 1940 and with a population of just over 19,000 people, the city finds itself next to the border with Russia and 200 miles away from the Mongolian capital, Ulaanbaatar.
Ganbayar started playing football when he was about 7 years old and was already turning the heads of many across the world.
In 2011, when Ganbayar was around 10 years old, he was invited to junior football camps in the Mongolian capital which had been organised by esteemed Italian champions, AC Milan. Despite competing with over 200 other young players, he was one of four to be invited to the final youth tournament which was held in Milan.
Two years later he was brought into the Mongolian National Team setup, playing with the Under-14's. He excelled on the pitch with tantalising performances against various oppositions. Playing well above his age. Scoring 5 goals in 4 appearances before he joined the Under-15's. However it was due to his excellent performances, that he had actually caught the eye of teams from Europe. One of those being Académica de Coimbra, who play in the Portuguese Primeira Liga. But despite this opportunity, Ganbayar felt it would do him better to remain in Mongolia, playing in the domestic league as well as with the national side, in hopes that other European clubs would come calling.
It was when he was 14, that he joined the youth team of Mongolian Premier League side, Khoromkhon FC. Despite being so young and having no previous playing experience, Ganbayar was called to play for the senior side in 2015 where he scored 15 goals in 11 appearances. Impressing many who watched on.
In the same year, Ganbayar was named the best player in the under-15 category of Sensation-2020. This is an annual national high school football tournament which is funded by the president of Mongolia. Ganbayar became the first player from a rural area to win the award.
2016 was also a successful year for the Mongolian for various reasons. Firstly, he scored 11 goals in 12 appearances for Khoromkhon, with the side finishing third in the league. He was also part of Khoromkhon's 2016 AFC Cup qualification matches and was the youngest player to compete at the tournament. The biggest achievement of this year for Ganbayar had to be when he was given a trial with English League Two side, Barnet FC. He travelled to England alongside the Mongolia national team coach to stay with the club for a month. Whilst he wasn't called to the senior side, he did play in matches for the U-16 side where he scored 2 goals and provided 2 assists. Despite the successful trial and Barnet's intent to offer Ganbayar a contract, due to UK laws regarding minors, he was unable to sign.
The taste for something greater
Later that year of his trial with Barnet. Ganbayar accepted a year-long residency with the youth academy of Puskás Akadémia. An academy which was created in memory to Hungarian footballing legend, Ferenc Puskás. The club had competed in the top division of Hungarian football, but were relegated after the 2015–16 season.
Ganbayar and three other compatriots were given this opportunity due to the partnership between the Mongolian Football Federation and the Hungarian Football Federation. Ganbayar and his three fellow Mongolian teammates became the first players from Asia to ever play at the academy.
Unfortunately for Ganbayar, he was only eligible to compete in friendly matches. But despite the setback, he showcased his skills and abilities when given the opportunity, scoring against European opposition. When the first year with the club was up, Ganbayar was the only player to be kept out of him and his three Mongolian compatriots.
He was picked to take part in the Puskás Cup with the U-17 side and played against FC Bayern Munich U-17's, winning 1-0. They didn't quite reach the final but played in a bronze medal match in which they won on penalties, with Ganbayar scoring his. He became the first Mongolian to ever win a medal in a European competition.
In 2017, Ganbayar signed a contract with Puskás Akadémi to play in the U-19 league, but because of eligibility issues, he was loaned out to Ulaanbaatar City FC back in his homeland of Mongolia. The idea to get him playing experience before he returned back to Hungary in a years time. However, this loan instead lasted two years.
In 2018, he was given his first competitive match with Ulaanbaatar City FC where they won the 2018 Mongolia Super Cup He made his league debut for the side and featured in two matches whilst he was there, scoring once.
Ganbayar returned to Hungary later in 2018, officially signing a youth contract with the club. This made him the first Mongolian player to sign for a fully professional club in Europe. Just six days after his 18th birthday, he made his league debut for the under-19 team. Over two seasons, he played in 26 matches and scored 7 goals.
In 2020, Ganbayar had joined Aqvital FC Csákvár on loan. A team which competed in Hungary's second tier league. He scored 3 goals in 26 appearances for the side. Ganbayar was then loaned back to his parent club and was placed into the senior squad. He was named to play against Sweden's Hammarby IF in the opening patch of the 20/21 UEFA Europa League qualification. But due to unknown circumstances, he did not make the trip
In the short few years that Ganbayar has been playing football, he has excelled high above his level and age. With so many accolades and achievements, I certainly feel that we have an incredibly talented and surprise package in Mongolian attacking midfielder Ganbayar Ganbold. It is hard to believe he is only 20 years old and I believe in the next year or two we will see more of him in Europe. Hopefully in a competitive league which provides growth an opportunity.
Ganbayar has also been called up to the Mongolia Senior Team this year. He made his debut against Tajikistan in a World Cup qualifier and will certainly be a key player in the national team from this point forth.
At the time of writing this article, it was announced just yesterday that Ganbayar has been loaned to KFC Komárno, who play in the Slovakian2. Liga. I will certainly be keeping my eye on him when the 2021-2022 season starts.