- His dream was to be a footballer and at 20 he performed at Russia 2018
- “With it being our first World Cup, it was a unique experience for the whole country”
- His objectives are to attain Qatar 2022 with Panama and excel in Spain
From a really younger age, Jose Luis Rodriguez was clear about his ambition to develop into an expert footballer, refusing to let a tough upbringing in a tricky neighbourhood stand in his means. “Everyone there liked to play football,” says the participant, now a family title in his homeland.
At the age of 16, Rodriguez made his skilled debut in Panama and shortly discovered himself in the nationwide U-17 group competing at a Concacaf championship. It was to be the begin of huge issues for the winger, even when his mom was not totally completely happy at the time: “She told me that I was neglecting my studies and that I had to make a decision,” he mentioned in an unique interview with FIFA.com.
His determination was to transfer to Europe and from there signify Los Canaleros at the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, the place he would earn a spot in the hearts of the Panamanian public.
The second got here of their third and last match of the group stage in opposition to Tunisia. With the recreation scoreless, it was Rodriguez’ shot that defected off a defender’s leg for the opening aim. It was the first time Panama had taken the lead at the World Cup, and the participant’s celebration encapsulated the pleasure felt by a complete nation. “I’m not even sure what I was saying [in that moment]. When I saw that the ball cross the line, I was shouting all sorts of things. I was happy and screaming! I remember my team-mates saying to me, ‘Come on, we can do this.'”
Although the rating was given as an personal-aim by Yassine Meriah, the 22-12 months-previous left-winger has claimed it as his personal: “I’ve always said it was my goal. If I hadn’t shot on target, then it wouldn’t have hit one of our opponents and gone in for a goal. All of Panama consider it my goal.”
That strike and the World Cup was the launch pad for the participant, who has continued to enhance in the interim. He initially joined KAA Gent’s U-21 group in 2016, and by 2019 the doorways to Spain had opened with Deportivo Alaves securing his providers. “This is what I want and I’m going to fight to fulfil my goal of going far in Europe and elevating my country to the best possible position,” he mentioned.
However, the journey has not been with out its difficulties. As with any teenager, leaving their nation, household and buddies at 18 to cross the pond is rarely straightforward. “I found it very tough. I was used to living with my mother, who I’d never previously been away from. The first year was very complicated. Many times I thought of my friends and family. I also had a son and not being able to see him affected me.”
In these tough moments, he discovered motivation by specializing in his aim. “I was clear about what I wanted in life. Either I could go back to Panama and my old neighbourhood and follow the same path that some of my companions had taken, which was the wrong road, or I could fight to achieve my dream of being a professional footballer and going as far as possible.”
His transfer to Spain was a really completely happy event for Rodriguez. “After the World Cup, the chance to sign for Alaves was a reward. I did very well with the club’s B Team. When I arrived, they were in the Tercera Division (fourth tier) and we went up to the Segunda B (third tier). A lot of people saw me play and spoke very well of me, so the club were very happy.”
That paved the means for a mortgage transfer to CD Lugo this season: “So far it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m happy because I’ve become an important player for the team,” he informed us.
His ambition stays undimmed nevertheless: “Next year I hope to establish myself in the top-flight, and hopefully it’ll be with Alaves,” he mentioned. Rodriguez acquired a style of the massive time final July, when he made his league debut for El Glorioso in opposition to none aside from Real Madrid.
His European expertise has been serving him effectively when it comes to the Panama nationwide group, who he joins up with this week as they begin qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. “The first few games are going to be tough. We have to reach the second round and try then to progress to the final qualifying round. The team is fully focused and is going to give its all for our country.”
Panama kicks off its marketing campaign in Concacaf Group D with video games in opposition to Barbados (on the twenty fifth) and Dominica (on the twenty eighth) in the Dominican Republic: “I’d have liked to play them in my country,” he mentioned, though effectively conscious that it’s the easiest answer given the state of affairs with the pandemic.
Mindful that their group opponents won’t be straightforward, Rodriguez was frank when requested what he knew about them: “I haven’t been with the team so I’ve not had the chance to see anything. When we get there, the coach will show us videos and we’ll start getting to know them better. Just like us, they’ll be going out to win.”
The exhausting-received expertise of latest years makes him an authoritative voice in the Canalero squad, one thing that turns into clear when he talks about the group’s goal. “We can no longer just go out to take part. We have to go with the mindset of believing in ourselves. If there’s a chance to go back to the World Cup, we’ll fight to make it happen. And if we return to the world stage, we want to at least win one game.”
For Rodriguez and Panama, the recollections of Russia are nonetheless vivid. “It was a very nice experience and a dream come true. It was a unique experience for the whole country and incredibly nice for me personally – to go to a World Cup and to be a starter. I remember entering the packed stadium and listening to our national anthem. A lot of things went through my head.”
Now the subsequent step is to make a very good begin in the present qualifiers with the intention of reprising that have on the world stage and accruing much more recollections.
Jose Luis Rodriguez briefly
His mom’s phrases earlier than he left for Europe: “She wanted me to continue my studies, but I explained that I wanted to be a footballer and that I had the chance to go to Belgium. My dream was to play in Europe, and I asked her to support me in that – and she did.”
An idol he seems to be up to: “Cristiano Ronaldo. I’ve been following him since I was a kid. I admire the way he works – he’s been my role model. I try to look at his life, his evolution and the efforts he’s had to make. I’m trying to go down the same path.”
What he misses about Panama: “My mother’s cooking.”
Any dish specifically? “Rice with coconut lentils and grilled pork chops.”
Something from Panama that he’d like to have in Spain: “Can I have anything? Then my mother. Having her here living with me.”
About the prospect of emulating what Rommel Fernandez (the former striker who died in 1993 and gave his title to the stadium the place Panama play their dwelling video games) did in Spain: For me, it’d be a supply of satisfaction, simply as it could be for my household, buddies, neighbourhood and nation. Rommel Fernandez got here from the identical neighbourhood as me, and I hope someday to find a way to match and surpass the stats he had in Spain. He was a vital participant.