A conversation with Azkal Stephan Schröck

Bob Guerrero
A conversation with Azkal Stephan Schröck
The Filipino-German, who is currently on loan from his German club to UFL League champions Ceres La Salle, opens up about his life on and off the field


Rappler: How does your loan deal between Ceres and Greuther Furth work? A lot of Filipino football fans, including myself, are not sure about what it’s all about. 

Stephan Schröck: It’s a 6 month deal. I have to be back during the transfer period in Germany. The latest day will be 15th of August. The German club pays almost 70% of my salary and Ceres pays the rest.


R: So what will happen in August? You will either stay with Greuther Furth or go somewhere else? 

SS: We will see. It depends on many factors, if Ceres will be happy with my performance and want me to stay or Greuther Furth will say “come back here,” or, “okay, extend your stay in the Philippines,” we have to figure it out.


R: But Greuther owns the rights to you?

SS: Yeah.


R: But I guess you are not thinking of that now? You are thinking of the Azkals in March and the UFL? 

SS: Ya.


R: So you may not finish the League competition, (The UFL will play the Cup until April then the League), because the League ends in September. That is a possibility? 

SS: Unfortunately, yes.


R: Are you concerned that your level of performance will go down since you will be playing in the UFL from Bundesliga 2? 

SS: No. Someone was asking me that yesterday too. Never for one second do I think that. Even the players here have their qualities. It’s a stupid example, but for example, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. They play in La Liga. Nobody is even close to them. I don’t compare myself to them. They are very good and they score or assist in almost every game. I don’t think they would be scared that their level would drop back if they played in Portugal or somewhere.


R: How does the organization of Ceres compare with a club like Greuther Furth? Everyone sees Ceres as a very well-run and respected club. Are they close to how a club is run in Germany?

SS: You cannot compare the two. German clubs have been very, very professional for the last one hundred years. But Ceres is doing very, very, very, very good. It’s all been very professional. It’s a good organization, like a big family. Everyone is friendly and has an open hand for you. They are helping you out, giving you advice. They sort you out for everything.


R: Have you been to Bacolod since you got to the Philippines? 

SS: Yes.


R: How is the set-up there? Ceres has their own field, right? 

SS: Yes, the North field. It’s a little bit hard and bouncy but it’s okay. For playing football it’s enough.


R: When and how did you realize, growing up, that you were a Filipino and not just a regular German kid? 

SS: My mom always told me you are not pure German, you are also a Filipino. So you have to be twice as nice as everyone else. You have to be very, very polite. You have to be twice as friendly, and do twice the work in everything. For me it was normal.


R: Did you eat Filipino food at home? 

SS: Yes, my mom and dad separated when I was 9 or 10. I stayed with my mom. She was the one cooking at home so I was basically eating Filipino food. 

R: Where is your Mom from? 

SS: She was born in Parang, North Cotabato but grew up in Cebu. 

Note: Parang is actually in neighboring Maguindanao.


R: Did you know that there are football towns in North Cotabato? Like M’lang?

SS: No.


R: Have you been to that part of the world? 

SS: Yes, 6 years ago. I visited relatives for two and a half weeks with my wife.


R: Did you play football there? 

SS: No, everybody was playing basketball.


R: Speaking of basketball, you’re watching the PBA tonight, right? (The PBA Finals Game 5.) 

SS: Yes, it will be my first time ever to watch a basketball game live. In Germany football is everything. They don’t even know who the champion in the NBA is, or what the national team is doing. The only player who is well-known is Dirk Nowitzki. And Lebron James, of course.


R: It has been reported that you admire Terrence Romeo. How did you discover him? 

SS: Before we played North Korea I was able to see a friend and we got a live stream to watch Gilas versus Iran. He was so good! Super good! I like his play! Super good. I would follow up on their games. Unfortunately I couldn’t watch the final (of the FIBA Asia.)


R: Is it true that you were very excited when you met Billy Joe Crawford for the first time here? 

SS: Yeah, yeah. Three years ago in Bacolod during the Peace Cup in Bacolod. There was a fan event so I met him there.


R: Is he famous in Germany? 

SS: Yes, he was a one-hit wonder. (Laughs.) Yes and all the Filipino-Germans like me and my cousins all know him. I was really surprised to meet him there.


R: So he knew of you? 

SS: Yes.


R: Was he surprised that you knew him? 

SS: Yeah! Is he famous in the Philippines?


R: Yes. Very famous.

SS: In Germany also. I just found out that Pharrell is half-Filipino, (Filipino-Germans) are all searching for half-Filipinos. That’s how I found out about Billy Crawford.

(Editor’s note: Pharrell Williams has yet to disclose any Filipino roots.)


R: You’ve got a lot of tattoos. Your name of your mom’s family, Cabizares, and a sun and stars. Does your mom like these tattoos? 

SS: No, (laughs), she likes the meaning but she doesn’t like tattoos. She tells me “I took care of you when you were younger and now you’re mistreating yourself with tattoos.” (More laughs.)


R: Your family will come for a visit in April. What are your plans? (His wife Pina is studying to have a hairdressing business and they have a son, Dias Santos, who is 3.) 

SS: They will be coming during the season so I’m going to be busy. But my family and relatives from Bulacan will be coming over to show them around.


R: Does your son kick a ball around? 

SS: He is still at the age when he plays with toy cars and planes. I ask him, “do you want to be a footballer or a firefighter?” He says, “I want to be a firefighter.” Or Spider-Man. He wants to be Spider-Man.


R: I noticed you had an Instagram post with a son with your church. Do you still go to church regularly? 

SS: I don’t go to mass regularly because it’s during game time or when we have to prepare at the hotel before the game. But whenever I have a free afternoon I go to church. I share this with my little one also. After kindergarten we drop by the church on the way home.


R: Are you the only guy on your team who goes to Church? 

SS: Germans are different from Filipinos. The older generation go regularly every Sunday. The younger ones are not used to it.


R: Let’s go back to football. React to this statement, whether you believe it or not: “Ceres have Schrock. They will dominate the UFL and win everything.” 

SS: Hopefully.


R: Do you think it’s going to be harder than what most people think? Some people think that with you and Kevin Ingreso there, it’s going to be easy. 

SS: No it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be even more difficult. I hear from my friends, (the Azkals), that everyone will be so motivated to play against us. We like the challenge. I like the challenge.


R: Most Filipino football fans only know the Azkals. They don’t know Ceres and don’t follow the UFL. What is your message to them to encourage them to support club football here? 

SS: The Azkals can only be successful in the coming years if the UFL takes the next step. The Azkals’ success and the UFL’s success go hand in hand. If people don’t follow the UFL, why should they follow the Azkals? That’s how it works in Europe. 

If people come and watch the games it will be a big boost. People will get to love the sport like I do. Like how Phil Younghusband does. Why just watch Phil in the Azkals? You can see him every weekend in the UFL.


R: Does your being in Ceres in the UFL improve your chances of playing in the AFF Suzuki Cup in December? (The Suzuki Cup does not take place during a FIFA international window, so European-based Azkals are usually not released by their clubs.)

SS: I’m not really sure. You know my deal. It’s just until August. And if my club in Germany or me are not happy with the situation here, I have to go back. There will be a regular league in Germany. The chances of me then playing in the Suzuki Cup will be so, so small, like in the previous years.


R: How is your relationship with Greuther Furth? 

SS: The club is known for its academy and developing good young players and selling them. I have been with them since I was 15. It was hard to leave but I still have a two-year contract with them after this loan. But if I like it here I will ask them to extend my stay, of course.


R: What about these next two games for the Azkals. In Uzbekistan on March 24 and at home versus Korea DPR on March 29. What are your thoughts on these matches? 

SS: They are going to be tough games. Uzbekistan has a lot of quality and North Korea also. Both running for the group winner. We want to hold our position in third place. We will see. I hope they will be good games and we have a lot of support for the game here. It will be like a “thank you” game for all the support we got last year.


R: I know Greuther plays on grass. How do you like playing on artificial turf? Do you like it? (The UFL will play its games on the synthetic surface of Rizal Memorial.) 

SS: I’m not complaining. When I was younger I would play on the streets and use a can for a ball. So I’m not complaining about anything.

I’m just glad to be playing here. It is better for me when I play for the Azkals. Every time I flew in for games I had jet lag. I’m so sensitive to the jet lag. And it’s hard to get used to the weather. Now in Germany it’s -5 degrees, here it’s 30. It’s a huge difference.


R: Your first game in the UFL Cup is against Loyola, the team of Phil and James Younghusband. You have played against Phil in training. How is it playing against him? 

SS: I respect Phil a lot. He is a very decent player. He is very much above average. You can see he has a good (football) education in Chelsea, He is very smart and in good shape. Like in his Instagram posts. I have never seen him that fit. I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited to play against Phil.


R: Could he have played in the Bundesliga 2 where you played? 

SS: I don’t know. The football style in South East Asia is different from the football played in Germany and Europe. I’m not judging and saying that Europe is better or South East Asia is better, but it’s just different. I think it’s more physical here and more technical in Germany.


R: Do you think this suits your game better? Do you think you are a physical player?

SS: (Laughs) We will find out. The things I do well in Germany are the speed, I’m okay with the speed. I’m okay with the ball-dribbling. But I’ve seen players here do those things as well as me. So we will see how it works against them. – Rappler.com

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