Whilst Europe remains the holy grail for most starry-eyed Australian youngsters, goalkeeper Ricardo Rizzo has taken a South American detour in pursuit of success.
And over the weekend, almost immediately after inking a professional deal with top-flight Uruguayan side Club Atletico Cerro, the 20-year-old from the western Sydney suburb of Prairiewood found himself on the bench against 46-time Primera Division champions Penarol.
The game ended 1-1, with Rizzo closer to a breakthrough than ever after 14 months building his resume and reputation in the reserves before his promotion to the top squad by Argentine coach Rolando Carlen.
Whilst he grew up bellowing his support for the Western Sydney Wanderers from the stands, the plan was to cut his teeth in Uruguay, the birthplace of father Leonardo.
With Mat Ryan and Mark Schwarzer as inspirations, Rizzo hasn’t yet caught the eye of the Australian national team set-up but that might change if he begins to rack up regular game time in one of Latin America’s toughest club competitions, a talent factory which has produced the likes of Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.
“I was part of the reserves and it’s a good step for me to sign this professional contract,” Rizzo told The World Game.
“The club is based in Montevideo and for me it’s a really big opportunity.
“I feel really at home here and they’ve even got a nickname for me now: canguro (kangaroo in Spanish).
“The standard is good, it’s very physical and the players are sharp on the ball.”
Rizzo, who played his youth football with Mount Druitt and Parramatta in the NPL, has based his game on several keepers, working to harness different aspects from a myriad of idols.
“I’ve watched a lot of goalkeepers over the years and have just taken little bits of everybody, definitely Mat Ryan for his footwork,” he explained.
“Here in Uruguay, as a keeper you need to be almost like another defender in terms of your touch and distribution.
“The football is actually quite similar here compared to Australia.”
Rizzo views Uruguay as a potential corridor to more illustrious leagues around the world, but is grateful to have the chance to progress in a football-crazy country where the league is finally up and running again after a long coronavirus shutdown.
“Uruguay is a respected football nation and a great starting point,” he added.
“A lot of players make their names here and move forward.
“We’re playing catch-up with fixtures and there will be two games a week now.
“The Penarol game was our first of the (delayed) season.
“There may be injuries and whatnot, so hopefully I’ll get my chance to start in the coming couple of months as we play a lot of games.”