ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (July 26, 2017) — At seemingly every home match the Tampa Bay Rowdies have played this season, a pack of jolly Germans has descended on Al Lang Stadium to support one of their favorite sons.
It began in January, when the Rowdies hosted VfL Wolfsburg in the Florida Cup. A sizable chunk of Wolves fans made the trip to Florida to support their club during its midseason break adventures.
Then, in March, the Rowdies signed Marcel Schäfer, a living Wolfsburg legend.
Since then, it seems St. Petersburg has been a preferred vacation destination for Wolves fans.
“It is always a good feeling and I’m always very happy when I see Wolfsburg fans here to support my new team,” Schäfer said. “I was really surprised how many people come because it seems there are Wolfsburg fans at every home game we play now. The group this past weekend was in Miami and they drove here to watch my new team and support us. That’s very nice and I appreciate that a lot.”
Schäfer played for Wolfsburg for a full decade, setting the record for Bundesliga appearances by a field player, before departing for Tampa Bay this year. He will return to Wolfsburg and work for the club once his player career ends.
This past week, right as the Al Lang Stadium gates opened, a pack of about 20 fans mostly wearing Schäfer Wolfsburg jerseys entered.
“Particularly at this last game, there were a lot of fans that came to see me play and I think they were a good luck charm for us,” Schäfer said. “We won the game, they supported us and they enjoyed their time here in St. Petersburg to watch our Rowdies. They will come again and we have a lot of new fans from Wolfsburg.”
For a German living in Florida, the list of friends and family hoping to visit is not a short one. Schäfer guesses that he he’ll have visitors just about every weekend from now through the end of the season.
That connection to home has made St. Petersburg feel all the more natural as Schäfer’s adopted hometown. The 34-year old, joined in Florida by his wife and three children, has not been shy about immersing himself in the community. His Instagram stories often show him enjoying Tampa Bay Rays games or grilling in the backyard.
“I’ve had a good start here,” Schäfer said. “It was a good decision for me to come here to the Rowdies and to live in St. Petersburg. It’s a very nice town for me and my family. We enjoy our time here and it’s a good feeling for us to meet so many people from Germany that come to our games.”