Garry Rodrigues – From Germany’s 6th Tier to the Champions League

Schalke’s players have prepared for tonight’s match against Galatasaray by training with the stadium speakers making the same amount of noise as the Gala fans usually do in a live match. After the training session the players were impressed, with Guido Burgstaller stating that he thought “the roof of the stadium would open” due to the pressure coming from the loudspeakers.

Besides Schalke’s special prep for the match, there’s also another story worth telling about the game, with Gala’s winger Garry Rodrigues having an interesting past link to German football. Over the years the 27-year-old has made his way from the Netherlands via Bulgaria (Levski Sofia), Spain (FC Elche) and Greece (PAOK) to Champions League football in Turkey despite an unpromising start in football.

At the start of his career the Cape Verdean winger struggled to make the grade in both the Netherlands and in Portugal and in the end he decided to make the move to Rostock. Through a contact Rodrigues was put in touch with Rostocker FC coach Christopher Stoll. The 36-year-old coach still remembers his former player, he told Sportbuzzer:

“We had a few international players in our squad and in the end we decided to invite along Garry as well. I still remember his first training session. Garry was quick and was good in the one-on-one’s.”

The coach tried to help the then 20-year-old player to find his feet in Germany. At first he got his player a bicycle in order to help him to work on his endurance and Rodrigues made ends meet by living in the club house of Rostocker FC and by working in a burger joint. Most professional players have already made it to the pros when they are 20, but that didn’t deter the winger according to Stoll:

“He was really eager to improve and it was his goal to play at a higher level.”

At the start of his career the local paper Ostsee-Zeitung took notice of the winger, stating that he managed to get through the defensive lines of Rostocker FC opponents time and time again. During these days there were around 100 spectators watching Rodrigues play in the club’s home matches at the Damerower Weg.

Rodrigues at Rostocker FC with ex-coach Christopher Stoll

Stoll tried to help the player along even further by getting in touch with some of his contacts within German football. He contacted the second team coaches of both Union Berlin and Hansa Rostock telling them about Rodrigues. In January 2011 the winger was given the chance to impress Hansa’s second team coach Axel Rietentiet during a trial, but a move never happened, as Rodrigues failed to impress the coach.

This might look like Hansa Rostock missing out on a great player, but Stoll notes that Rietentiet wasn’t at fault for that: “Garry didn’t play at the same level as today back then.”

Despite the set back, Rodrigues faced he still didn’t give up. After a year in Rostock he decided to leave Germany. From there on out his career improved gradually. From a great stint in the Dutch second tier, to great years at Levski and PAOK, things started to get better and better for the player. Nowadays Rodrigues’ Instagram account is filled with the usual footballer stuff.

Stoll says that his former pupil worked hard to get there: “He made it because he had a will made of steel. It’s not the case that players get out of the youth academies being finished products. There’s still a lot of potential to develop when players are at the start of their twenties.”

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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