“Every time there’s a national team squad announcement I always try to tune in to Colombian radio to listen to it,” Adrian Ramos told FIFA.com a few days before Cafetero coach Jose Pekerman revealed his squad for Colombia’s friendly against Tunisia on 5 March.
Happily for Ramos, his name was on that list. The match will be Colombia’s first this year, the first since Radamel Falcao suffered his serious knee injury and the first since Ramos was last called up in June 2012.
The 28-year-old Hertha Berlin striker deserves his place. Tied with Robert Lewandowski as the Bundesliga’s leading scorer this season with 14 goals, he was voted by the fans as the most outstanding player of the first half of the campaign and is in the form of his life.
“I’m happy because all the work I’ve put in is paying off,” he explained. “I’m scoring goals and that’s helping the team to stay up near the top of the table (Hertha currently lie seventh in their first season back in the German top flight). It’s also reassuring for me to look at the list of leading goalscorers and see that I’m right up there in the mix.”
Perhaps aware of the problems he has had in getting this far, the quietly spoken Ramos played down his achievements this season, preferring to focus instead on the need to keep on working hard and give his all. After all, he has had to wait for success and recognition to come his way.
“Some people start on successful careers at an early age but mine’s been a career full of ups and downs,” he said. “That’s football for you, and not everyone can have success at the same time. I’ve worked hard to make it and I’ve always believed and had faith whenever times got tough. Getting this far has not been easy.”
A born fighter
Hailing from Villa Rica in western Colombia, Ramos has overcome one obstacle after another in his race to the top, without ever falling into despair.
“I didn’t grow that fast when I was younger and that gave me quite a few problems because coaches are always looking for strong, tall players, which I wasn’t,” he said, recalling his early days in the game.
I’ve worked hard to make it and I’ve always believed and had faith whenever times got tough. Getting this far has not been easy.
Given that he now stands 6’1 tall, it is hard to believe Ramos’ career was almost over before it started because of his relatively small stature in his formative years. “The thing is, everyone in my family is pretty tall. It just took me a while to catch up with them,” he added with a smile.
His growth problems behind him, he caught the eye at America de Cali and began his international career with the side that finished fourth at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Finland 2003, where he teamed up with the likes of Fredy Guarin and Cristian Zapata.
Then came his big break, as Hertha Berlin swooped for him. Though the move to Germany marked the start of an exciting new adventure, Ramos was to face yet more problems on his arrival there.
“We were all ready to play in Europe and it was what I wanted, but the first few months were really tough,” he explained. “You have to start a new life from scratch and you don’t know anyone. What’s more, German is a very, very difficult language to learn.”
Drawing on his considerable reserves of patience, Adriancho, as he is known to his friends, gradually found his feet: “Fortunately I was able to settle in and get used to it all. I have no problems making myself understood now. We’ve sorted out the problems we had and my family and I are very happy here now.”
Aiming for Brazil
Hertha’s recent travails on the pitch have also posed a challenge to Ramos in the five years he has enjoyed with them, with the Berlin side suffering relegation in 2010 and again in 2012.
“It wasn’t easy playing in the second division,” he said. “I never thought about going back to Colombia, but I did consider moving to another club. The first few months were tough, but I kept it to myself.”
His second spell in the Germany’s second tier coincided with that start of a lengthy absence from the national side. After being drafted into the squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifiers against Peru and Ecuador in 2012 and attending the team get-together Pekerman organised shortly afterwards in Madrid, Adriancho was left out in the cold until this very week.
Regardless of whether Falcao is fit in time for Brazil 2014, the fight for places in the Colombia front line is sure to be intense, as Ramos acknowledged: “Some of my colleagues are playing really well and there’s a lot of competition. My dream is to be in Brazil, though. It’s my biggest challenge and I just have to wait and see.”
The people of his hometown certainly believe he deserves to make the trip and have been out on the street calling for Pekerman to name their local hero in the squad for Brazil. It now falls to Ramos to show what he can do against the Tunisians and bring his cherished dream a little closer to fulfilment.