Although his time in the Tampa Bay Area was short – only a year and a half – Marcel Schäfer took the idea of #TeamTampaBay and embraced it.
The Rowdies midfielder will play his final professional game on Friday. Although he still appears to have plenty left in the tank, Schäfer is retiring to take a can’t-miss opportunity in the front office of his German club of 10 seasons, VfL Wolfsburg.
With Schäfer’s departure, Tampa Bay not only loses a strong midfielder — they also lose a champion of this community.
When Schäfer, a self-professed sports nut, originally came to Tampa Bay, he was excited that his move to the United States would provide him with the chance to watch plenty of American sports. There are few better places to go than Tampa Bay, which also has pro football, hockey, and baseball teams along with his own Rowdies soccer team.
Schäfer and his family embraced the Lightning, Buccaneers, and Rays, and they were frequently seen around Amalie Arena and the other local sports venues. He even was a Lightning Social Captain (along with Joe Cole) and swapped jerseys with Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman.
Marcel’s engagement with the other Tampa Bay teams wasn’t just as a fan, however. It was also as a student. As he told the Unused Substitutes, Schäfer used his time in America to study how American sports work. He got to tour local facilities, talk with other athletes about their preparation, and even got to meet with some front office executives, include Lightning GM Steve Yzerman.
Schäfer’s time in the US was always about preparing him for life after his playing career. Returning to Wolfsburg was always the plan, and although the move happened sooner than expected, Schäfer’s experience in Tampa Bay is sure to help him transition to his new role.
Although Schäfer’s time in Tampa Bay is about to end, his love for the area will live on. He plans to return to the area on vacation, and he claims he’ll become the first Tampa Bay Rowdies ambassador in Germany. There’s hope that the connection between the Rowdies and Schäfer can lead to a budding relationship with his historic Bundesliga club.
We’re sad to see Marcel leave, but we’re grateful for how he embraced this Tampa Bay community, and excited to see him return some day.