Roy Gelmi

Roy Gelmi, 21, is a center back for FC St. Gallen and a member of the U-21 national team. He made his debut in the Super League at the age of 20, and has already worn the captain’s armband. 

Roy Gelmi

Roy Gelmi, did you inherit your talent?
Not directly. I’m the first professional football player in my family. But both of my parents are PE teachers, and I’ve played sports since I was very young. I joined FC Bassersdorf because of my two older brothers, then switched to FC Zurich when I was 11.

Your career hasn’t taken a straight path. You were discarded by FCZ at the age of 13.
That was extremely difficult. I was in tears. Returning to my original club, I thought that my dream of professional football was over. A year later, however, other clubs were again showing interest – among them FCZ. I decided to go to St. Gallen.

Between the ages of 16 and 19 you were constantly plagued by muscle injuries. Did you ever consider giving up?
Never. Each time I returned to the field after an injury, it was as if the injury had never happened. Being part of the U-18 national team for the first time was an important milestone. It proved to me that I was on the right path.

You were also taking your high school exams at the same time. Is it necessary to sacrifice your youth to realize your dream of playing professional football?
To a certain extent, yes. For me, life consisted only of school and football. I couldn’t have done it otherwise.

The most difficult challenge is making the transition from “young talent” to professional player. Why is that?
Physically, it’s a quantum leap. Suddenly your opponents are no longer teenagers, but highly trained, skillful adults. To keep up, I started doing more individual training. Mental toughness is even more important, however.

How so?
As a junior player, you’re always a top performer and getting a lot of praise from the coaches. And suddenly you’re just warming the bench. Nobody talks to you. You don’t know whether you’re still needed. That eats away at you, and you start to have doubts. Luckily, that period lasted for only a few months. Then everything happened very quickly – I played my first professional game a year ago, and I’ve even had a turn as captain.

And suddenly you’re in the public eye. Does that change you?
Of course it makes you somewhat more cautious, because you don’t want to make a negative impression. But I never pretend I’m someone I’m not – I stay true to myself.