German-born striker tells of his late arrival on the international scene with Cyprus.
By John Leonidou
In the German football hall of fame, Rainer Rauffmann must rank somewhere in the queue between the front door and the driveway, leaving pride of place to the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Karl Heinz Rummenigge and Lothar Matthäus.
Fair to say he would barely merit a passing nod. However, among the supporters of Cypriot first division club Omonia FC, there is no doubting the legendary status of the 36-year-old centre-forward. Since his transfer from 1. Bundesliga side DSC Arminia Bielefeld in 1997/98, Rauffmann has registered 172 league goals and finished top scorer in four of his first five seasons on the holiday island.
First international goal
Yet his most significant strike arguably came in a UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifier against Malta last month. It was his first international goal on his third appearance for his adopted country - and helped Cyprus to a 2-1 victory. For a player whose achievements also include a Cypriot league title and Cypriot Cup winner's medal, it was the pinnacle. Here uefa.com catches up with Rauffmann to learn more about this latecomer to the international scene.
What was it like to score for Cyprus?
Rainer Rauffmann: Cyprus is my home now. I have a Cypriot wife and I feel like a Cypriot citizen - so I was very proud to score for Cyprus.
How strong is Cypriot football?
Rauffmann: Cyprus are very close to having a side in the UEFA Champions League. It is not so far away. In a few years I think we will see a Cypriot team in the Champions League and hopefully the national team playing in a major competition.
What brought you to the island in the first place?
Rauffmann: I was having problems finding a club in Germany. I had had problems with coaches and going abroad was my last option. I was lucky that an offer came in from Cyprus. At the time, I didn't know much about the country or Omonia, but I was happy to be joining a big club in Cyprus. And I am very happy that I made the move.
uefa.com: Given your success here, did you ever consider leaving Cyprus to play in a bigger league?
Rauffmann: I played in a big league in Germany, but I was not happy because the approach to the game there is different from mine. I am more of an attacking player whereas the Germans put more emphasis on defending. Some people would think twice about moving to Cyprus, because of the money on offer. But sometimes you have to decide between quality of life and money - and I chose to have a good quality of life.
uefa.com: Do you still keep an eye on German football and which players have impressed you most?
Rauffmann: Germany's strength comes from their compactness and playing as a team. But from what I have seen of late, Michael Ballack seems a very good player and I think Sebastian Deisler will also get back to his best after a long injury lay-off.