VITAKA Rodriguez is a popular man.
The Spaniard has quickly become a fan favourite in his time playing for FC Bendigo, the newly formed National Premier Leagues side based in central Victoria.
Boasting an innate ability to open up opposition defences with his passing, the attacking midfielder has brought the kind of imagination to the field that has rarely been seen on Bendigo pitches throughout the history of football in this town.
Playing the game in his own distinctive style, a style honed whilst playing in various leagues across Europe, Rodriguez has played a key role in bringing fans through the gates at the Tom Flood Sports Centre this season.
Rodriguez hails from Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital city of the Canary Islands, which are a group of islands situated south of Spain and next to Morocco.
Rodriguez credits his father for introducing him to the game.
“My father was a very good footballer, and he was the one that showed me the game. I have been playing since I was five, and ever since I was very young I have wanted to be a professional footballer, because I enjoy the game,'' Rodriguez said.
Having played for the youth team of Spanish Premier League outfit Real Betis as a youngster, Rodriguez began his senior career plying his trade for local side UD Tenerife Sur Ibarra in the third tier of Spanish football.
After finishing in Spain, Rodriguez shifted across the continent to play for Kozani FC in the Greek third division. It was here that Rodriguez competed in a Greek Cup match against the world famous Panathinaikos FC, winner of 20 Greek championships.
Following a brief spell in the French football system with AS Beziers, Rodriguez made the life changing decision to switch continents and come to Australia, where he became FC Bendigo’s biggest signing earlier this year.
“I received a phone call from the club asking me to come and play for Bendigo” Rodriguez recalled.
“It was important to me that I knew the place I was playing for, and did not just sign for anyone.
“When I came to Bendigo I could see that even though the club was new, it was very well organised, and the board had a lot of passion for football. I could really see that the board loved the town, which was important to me”.
Despite being sent off in Bendigo’s inaugural home game, a 2-2 draw with Moreland Zebras, Rodriguez has become a key player for the Bendigo side, particularly in linking midfield with attack.
The 27-year-old scored his first goal in the 4-2 win against Dandenong at the Tom Flood Sports Centre in May, and has provided many assists.
Rodriguez’s on-field form has been crucial to an improvement in the team’s form, with Bendigo collecting three wins in June and going through the month undefeated, something the Spaniard is keen to continue.
“I have tried really hard for my team-mates. I have gotten a few assists and a goal against Dandenong, so personally I'm satisfied with my performance so far,'' he said.
“I feel that I haven't hit my full potential yet. For the team, it took us a while to get to know each other and to adjust to the structure that the coaches want us to play, but I think we have shown what we are capable of in the last few weeks.
"If we are able to maintain that level I'm sure that the best is yet to come”.