Sohaib Alvi – DAWN
Rodriguez is a name that has over the last four weeks been on everyone`s lips. And while James Rodriguez may have exited temporarily despite a set of five magnificently drilled goals, with La Liga eyeing him, he could well be playing for Real Madrid next season. On a lower level of appeal is left-back Ricardo Rodriguez of Switzerland, who was instrumental in a couple of goals before the Swiss departed from Brazil.
Now it seems we may soon be hearing about a Pakistani footballer with a similar name. Though he ends his surname with an `s` instead of the `z`, there is clearly the same passion and dedication to football that James and Ricardo display, and certainly a talent for finishing the move in the net.
I`m talking here of Bruce Rodrigues, who has spent time at the Manchester United Academy and has come into focus at the city level with some eye catching performances both in midfield and the box.
Recently, he was called by the Karachi United FC to practice with the senior string and in his debut match he scored the winner.
Rodrigues also plays regularly at the KMC Ground under the watchful eye of coach-caretaker Ahmed Jan and has often impressed the former Pakistani FIFA referee.
He`s only 18 but Rodrigues is fast achieving what most schoolboys with footballing ambitions don`t achieve till they actually get coached by the masters. He was scoring goals when he was just 15 and was instrumental in Karachi Grammar School`s winning the 2011 Inter-School Championship while finishing as the tournament`s top scorer ( which included a hat-trick).
A year earlier at the age of 14, Rodrigues attended the Manchester United Summer School at Denstone College, UK, which concluded at the Old Trafford Theater of Dreams. He was coached there by MU professionals who nurtured his talent and skill, and taught him to understand and play strategic moves in a match. `I developed my game as a midfielder and learnt how to control the ball and game as a playmaker, he says about what he learnt most while training at MU Academy.
He further recalls, `After I toldone of my coaches Jason at MU Academy that I would like to be a playmaker, he told me that I will have to control the game and envision every move and that as a good player I should not take too long with the ball before passing it on to a teammate.
This awareness has enabled Rodrigues to be a prolific scorer in every match he plays now due to his speed, ball control and the ability to net from all angles.
In line with total football that top teams play today he enjoys all positions `in which I can assist my team to win the match,` he says. `But I usually play in the attacking midfield position.
The talent was always there, say his coaches. Indeed in 2008 when he was only 12, Rodrigues was selected in a junior Pakistani schoolboys` team that played at the 35th Asian Schools Championships in Bangkok.
Though he successively won the Athlete of the Year award at St Patrick`s, was `the fastest boy` in over 100 metres, a member of the KGS volleyball team and over the last 16 years of school won 16 gold, six silver and four bronze medals hisheart has always been in football. `It is my passion and the only game in which my entire concentration lies, he says.
Although Eric Cantona of Manchester United remains Rodrigues`s inspiration, his coach Khayam Juma, who started the Laurentian FC at the St Lawrence sports ground some 25 years back, is his mentor. He took him under his wing when he was only six and today Rodrigues is the captain of the senior team for displaying certain leadership traits that Juma thinks are essential for a field captain to have.
One of those traits is playing for the team and when asked what has been his finest moment he replied that it was winning the Karachi United School Championship (KUSC) for Karachi Grammar School in 2010-2011. Another marking his proudest moment is walking on the hallowed turf of the Manchester football field in Old Trafford. But when pushed for hisproudest goal, Rodrigues recalls the match-winner he scored in the final of the Karachi Inter-school Sports League.
Rodrigues has also started practicing with the Karachi United team at their grounds in Clifton and is also clear on taking a judgment call if asked by a department to play in the national championships. `If given the opportunity I would love to grab it,` he says `and as far as studies are concerned, I now have more time having neared the end of my A-Levels.
Despite achieving so much in a matter of five years, Rodrigues is amazingly matured in his ambition.
He dreams of playing one day for Manchester United `but in order to do that I have to start at the bottom and find opportunities in the lower leagues first,` he points out keeping both feet on the ground.
It`s not usual that you find such measured thinking in an 18-yearold. Good for him, good for Pakistan!