Few footballers getting a call for their country’s World Cup squad would quibble over their shirt number, but if you’re a confident goal machine, you might as well push it. Pedrito Rodriguez Ledesma is never afraid to push the limits, that’s why the 23 year old forward from Abades on the east coast of Tenerife has forced his way into the Spain squad after a record breaking season for Barcelona.
Cape Verde may have sent shock waves through football with their recent 0-0 draw with a Portugal side that included Christian Ronaldo, but there is no route to football glory for the Canary Islands. They don’t have independent status and have to settle for the odd unofficial friendly every few years.
Growing up, Pedro as he is usually known, couldn’t foresee the international stage that would beckon, but the naturally talented left footed player joined the nearby CD Raqui San Isidro club at 10 years old and started to bang in goals at an amazing rate. Sadly the call from professional neighbours CD Tenerife never came but his progress was rapid and after netting 24 goals for the juniors in the 2003-04 season he was called up to the senior team to play in the Spanish Tercera division at just 16.
Then fate dealt a hand, Pedro was playing in a pre season junior tournament in Adeje and a Barcelona representative spotted him and signed him up. After a few seasons on the fringe of the senior squad, Pedro charged his way into regular first team action, usually at the expense of Thierry Henry. How about a place in the record books too? Not a problem for this hot shot, all games came alike to Pedro and he scored in all six club competitions he played in. That’s La Liga, Copa del Rey, World Clubs Championship, Spanish Super Cup, Champions League and European Super Cup.
Now with a new Barcelona contract until 2014 and a 60 million euro buyout clause, has fame changed the man from Abades? It seems not, for this season’s home game with CD Tenerife he paid for the staff at the V Power petrol station, where his Dad works in Los Olivos, to fly over and be his guests at the game. And in reverence of his home island he vowed not to celebrate if he scored against CD Tenerife, a promise he kept for the game in Santa Cruz (above in orange) and after failing to stifle the natural urge to mark his goal in Barcelona, he apologised after the game.
On Saturday 29 May, 61 minutes into Spain’s 3-2 World Cup warm up win over Saudi Arabia in Innsbruck, Austria, Pedro proudly took to the field for his international debut. After swapping his unlucky number two shirt with team mate Raul Albiol, Pedro displayed his new squad number 18 on his back, many defenders will be taking note of that.
Becoming only the fifth Canarian to play for Spain, the rampaging forward joins an elite group led by Luis Molowny the former CD Tenerife star who went on to play for Real Madrid in the mid 1940s on the way to seven full caps. In South Africa Pedro will have a Canarian neighbour, David Silva from Gran Canaria alongside him. But keep your eye on Pedrito, he has a knack for scoring goals and will want to add a World Cup marker to his collection.
Main photo courtesy of www.garyhill-photography.com