The city of Maracaibo in the north-west tip of Venezuela is affectionately known to locals as the beloved land of the sun. From the backstreets of Maracaibo a new star of Venezuelan football has risen. Although Yohandry Orozco is still a teenager his performances for Venezuela in the South American under-20 Championship and his subsequent move to Bundesliga outfit Wolfsburg have got fans of la Vinotinto buzzing. The South American Football Show in association with The Independent caught up with the youngster for an exclusive interview.
It’s now been a month since you made the switch to Germany, how are you settling in?
I’m feeling good, I have a nice apartment here in Wolfsburg where I live with my father. It was always a dream of mine to live abroad. I used to spend a lot of time thinking about coming to Europe and it’s great to be living here now. Wolfsburg is a nice town and it has everything anybody could need. I like to go shopping in the town and the people here are always very friendly.
You must be looking forward to making your debut for Wolfsburg and showing the fans what you can do?
Naturally I’m very keen on getting out there and playing. I have spoken with Wolfsburg fans and they have told me they are looking forward to seeing me play. When the moment comes I will do my best to help the team.
What attracted you to Wolfsburg and how do you think moving to the Bundesliga so young will affect your career?
Ever since I started kicking a football I always wanted to play in the Bundesliga. I have been watching games from Germany on television since I was a small boy. It was very lucky for me to be spotted at the South American under-20 Championships in Peru. Getting selected to play for my country at the tournament was a great honour and something I will always be proud of.
Have you received any advice from your international team-mates Juan Arango of Borussia Mönchengladbach and Tomás Rincón of Hamburg?
I talked with both of them before I came to Germany. They both told me that I would have to patient when I arrived. The best advice they gave me was to train very hard everyday. I want to be fully prepared when my chance comes so I can make the best of it.
You really hit the headlines with some stunning performances at the South American under-20 Championships earlier this year. Did you target this tournament to make your international breakthrough?
My performances were good in that competition, everything seemed to be going my way on the pitch during the games. It was because of how I played in Peru that Wolfsburg decided to bring me to Germany. I’m so satisfied with the way things have worked out for me so far. I also understand that it can be difficult for a South American player to come to Europe so I know there’s still plenty of hard work to do.
You are now a member of the senior Venezuelan international team, what are your hopes for this year’s Copa America in Argentina?
Playing in the Copa America for my country is one of the things that motivates me everyday to work hard. I hope César Farías (head coach of Venezuela) will have enough confidence in me to select me to play. I think it will be a wonderful tournament and I really hope to be there.
Venezuela came closer than ever to reaching the finals of a World Cup during the qualifying rounds for South Africa 2010. What are the chances of Venezuela making it to Brazil 2014?
We missed out last time by the smallest of margins and we took the fight right down to the wire. We came so close but little mistakes cost us our place in South Africa. I will be giving my best to make sure the old Venezuelan dream of reaching a World Cup comes true next time. The national team is fully prepared and focused on participating in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
How do you explain the massive improvement in Venezuelan football in these past few years. Landmarks such as the national team winning in Ecuador and drawing in Brazil in World Cup qualifying matches, Caracas FC reaching the quarter-finals of the Copa Libertadores and your team-mates’ performances in the 2009 under-20 World Cup?
It’s not just in the last few years we have seen improvements, for a long time now football in Venezuela has been getting better bit-by-bit. The clubs are a lot more serious about training these days, the competition in the league is stronger and the facilities are improving. Lately we have more players gaining experience by playing in other countries and this is also giving the national team an advantage.
You participated in the 2009 under-20 World Cup and recently scored an amazing goal against Peru in the South American under-20 Championships. You have also made your senior debut for Venezuela and joined Wolfsburg in a very short space of time. Can you believe how quickly things are moving for you?
I’m not too surprise by the way things have gone for me. I have been training hard for a long time now and this has given me more self-confidence, this has been the key in helping me to succeed. If there’s one moment from my career so far that really stands out then it has to be when I first got the telephone call from Wolfsburg. I received the call right after we had lost against Chile in Peru to end our South American under-20 Championship. I was feeling so much emotion, sadness and joy at the same time when I learnt that Wolfsburg wanted to take me to Germany.
You were one of the stars of the South American under-20 Championships, other great performances came from Neymar and Lucas of Brazil. Who are you looking forward to sharing a pitch with again the most?
I have never felt like a star player, I’m just proud of my training and being able to reach a level that lets me play for a great club like Wolfsburg and my country. I thought that Neymar really managed to stand out in the tournament in Peru. He is a really good player and I think he has the talent to go a very long way in the game.
What would you say is your top ambition to achieve in your footballing career? Can you make football bigger than baseball in Venezuela?
Someday I would like to play in the Champions League and I would love to make this possible by winning the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg. This is the dream I’m focused on right now while I’m in Germany. Everybody in Venezuela is watching baseball so I think it would take something extra special to change this point of view in my country.
With over 100 appearances for the national team José Manuel Rey is an icon of Venezuelan football. What can you tell us about playing with and against this tough tackling defender?
There is something very special about José Manuel Rey. Even though the guy has played over 100 times for the national team he remains a grounded and humble person. He’s a guy that any player in Venezuela can come to for advice and he will make the time to help them.
Finally Yohandry, you have given fans of Venezuelan football so much joy with your performances. What are the other reasons for fans of Venezuelan football to be optimistic right now?
Just like my move to Wolfsburg I think more and more young Venezuelan players will also go abroad to play for foreign clubs in Europe and the rest of the world. Having experienced players and a national team focused on training hard will be enough to take a Venezuela to a World Cup. I think the key to becoming a better player and a better team is to play against the best.
Yohandry’s wonder goal against Peru in the South American under-20 Championships: