For a nation renowned for producing big, burly footballers (and the odd All-Black) silky-skilled Marco Rojas is part of a new direction for New Zealand’s football.
At 166cm, Marco Rojas is the smallest player at the biggest club in the A-League; a winger or central midfielder with touch and elegance who can breeze past defenders with ease. The 19-year-old Hamilton-born waif is an old fashioned type of player with his eyes very much on the future and a cracking tale to tell of how he actually came to be noticed…
Marco, coming through the ranks in New Zealand was your size ever an issue?
When I was in the U-11s and 12s I didn’t get picked for the representative teams because I was too small. I never let it get to me too much because I always wanted to prove them wrong. I love football and it’s all I want to do so that’s enough motivation but yeah, that helped motivate me when I was younger to become a professional. I’d be in trouble if I played Rugby!
Did being smaller in size influence your decision to be a winger?
I’ve always been an attacking midfielder/winger – either will do. I guess yes, size had something to do with it but these are the positions I enjoy as you get to take on players and create. It’s how I want to play my football.
The technical smaller players seem to rule the roost these days…
Yeah, obviously different leagues have different types of players. The Spanish league is very technical while the A-League has more attributes. I think with Barcelona they’ve shown how good you can be with these types of smaller players.
How you came to be at Melbourne Victory is quite extraordinary – Phoenix fans “Yellow Fever” voted for you to win a scholarship to train at their club in 2009… talk us through that.
I won a scholarship through their help and I got a week’s training at Phoenix and it just took off from there. I’ve always said I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity they gave me. I don’t think there are many other clubs that give that opportunity for young players and it’s special for me. It kick-started my professional career.
And you took your chance at Phoenix…
I did. It went well for me and it all kicked off from there and hopefully it keeps getting better for me.
You’ve already debuted for the All-Whites but what about Chile? I believe you have family from there?
My Dad is Chilean. I follow Chilean football and I actually met Ivan Zamorano through one of my family members. That was pretty good and I always stay in touch with everyone back there football and family-wise. I could play for Chile I guess, but I want to continue playing for New Zealand at this stage and we’ll see… I’m happy to wear the All-White shirt.
You debuted for the Kiwis anyway so that’s put to bed?
I’m not sure. I’ve heard different scenarios about official games but like I said I’m happy playing for New Zealand and I want to play for them.
And that’s a cracking New Zealand team you’ve got these days with so much talent coming through…
Exactly. We’ve got a pretty strong squad and hopefully everything can go right and we can qualify for the World Cup in Brazil, and I can be a part of it.
And I believe you play against CONCACAF rather than AFC this time if you get through, as expected, in Oceania? Could be a date against Carlos Hernandez and his Costa Ricans down the track...
It’ll be difficult as a lot of confederations are stronger than Oceania, but we’ve just got to make sure first that we get to that stage then wait to see who we get from there.
You’re now at Victory; the obvious question is Harry and what he’s passed onto you as a striker?
It’s little things like the movement off the ball, telling me where I should be, just little things like that. I’ve been practicing shooting with him and he’s giving tips here and there. Nothing major but it really helps improve my game. It’s amazing to be able to learn off so many different players at Victory.
And your family got to see you on the same pitch as David Beckham recently?
They were just happy to be here in Melbourne when the game was on. For everyone, including me, it was an unbelievable experience to say you played against Beckham, Keane and Donovan and those types of players…
Who’d have thought you would’ve played against Celtic and LA Galaxy in 2011 and had joined the biggest club in the A-League with teammates such as Harry Kewell, Archie and Carlos? Oh, and made your international debut for the All-Whites…
[Laughs] Not bad is it? And hopefully down the line I’ll be able to do that week in, week out and play with some of the world’s top players. They [Harry, Archie and Carlos] have been through everything I want to go through when I get older.
This article appeared in the February 2012 issue of Australian FourFourTwo magazine. To buy back copies of this issue call 03-8317-8121 with a credit card to hand.
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