For some players, moving abroad can be a great way of progressing their careers. Players like Callum Rzonca, who went from National League North to Polish top flight, are a great example of what a move abroad can do for a young player’s career but there are probably not many more better examples than Neville Rivelino. The 24-year-old from London swapped playing for clubs like Beaconsfield to playing professionally abroad.
“I’ve played football since I can remember,” says Rivelino. “The first team I played for was Hampstead for a few years and then a few more local teams and midweek leagues. I then attended college where I played for Beaconsfield and Slough Town before eventually joining Tonbridge Angels.”
It was a humble beginning for Rivelino as he plied his trade in the English lower leagues but after becoming disillusioned with football in his homeland, he was determined to try his luck elsewhere and fortunately for the winger, a family contact would pave the way for a dream career move.
“I made the decision that staying in England wouldn’t be beneficial for my career because I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted and didn’t feel my playing style suited England.
“Luckily, one of my mum’s friends is the mother of a professional footballer in Italy. My mum contacted her friend, her son asked for a video which he then passed on to his agent.
“About two weeks later the agent called me to say there was a team in Greece that would like to sign me. I said yes and left a few days later.”
It was a whirlwind few weeks for Rivelino who had been playing in level seven of English football for Tonbridge Angels. Now he was heading to Greece to join third-tier side Amfissaikos.
On his arrival, the winger was apprehensive but any worries that he had made the wrong decision quickly faded.
“I thought it would be very difficult [moving to Greece], especially being my first time moving away from my family and friends, but when I arrived in Greece I didn’t get home sick at all. The players were all very welcoming and helpful.
“Luckily, I had daily contact with friends and family which helped a lot. I was really focused on improving my ability and my skills as I felt this was the best option for me to have a career in football, which is what I’ve always wanted.”
Having made the move in December 2015, Rivelino would go on to spend close to three years in Greece. After five months with Amfissaikos, he briefly joined fellow third-tier side Pierikos before spending the rest of the season with Charavgiakos. He then played for GS Ilioupolis last season, a club based in Athens.
Hearing from Rivelino after his several seasons in Greece makes it easy to understand why it was he spent so long in the country.
“One of the biggest differences between Greek and English football are the fans,” he says. “In Greece, the fans are so passionate and from the kick off right through to the final whistle, the fans are screaming and singing to the top of their voices.
“They also had flairs at most games which was something I wasn’t used to but it was an amazing experience for me.”
During his time in Greece, the winger was also was able to pick up on the differences from the game he was used to playing back home.
“There’s a lot of running [in Greece] but I would say there’s more running, fighting and hard tackles in England. In Greece, it is a bit more tactical and the ball is played on the floor a bit more than in the lower leagues in England. This might be because clubs train everyday in Greece whereas in the Conference and Ryman levels, it’s just twice a week for most teams.”
After the first country he played abroad in proved to be an enjoyable experience, this summer the former Tonbridge man returned closer to home, albeit only slightly, as he joined Austrian third-tier club SV Schwechat. Again the winger find it easy to settle into his new environment but this time had the added bonus of a capital city to explore.
“I settled in quickly,” he says. “This team and players have been the most welcoming of all the teams I have played for.
“My focus is on developing my football skills and experience so the environment is secondary. Having said that, I’m living in Vienna which is a beautiful city and there are lots of things to do to keep me occupied.
“I go around the city to see new things, watch some Netflix series and do extra training to keep fit in my spare time.”
Returning to mainland Europe may have been a draw for Rivelino but he was also tempted to leave Greece behind by what his new side had to offer.
“The facilities here are very good. The club has a good academy which they are known for. They have four or five pitches which are very well kept. There’s also a running track around the football pitch, a gym which is a bit old but has everything you need.
“It’s also good for me for when I want to do extra training alone or with teammates.”
So far this season, the 24-year-old has played six times for his new club, scoring once in a narrow 4-3 defeat last month. All six of his appearances so far have been starts and he certainly seems to have made an impression on his new teammates.
“My style of play is perhaps unusual for Austria as from what I’ve seen and being told by teammates. There are not many fast players that can dribble with the ball.
“Playing here is beneficial for me as I stand out from the other players.”
The tricky winger has his work cut out though, with his side currently sitting at the bottom of the table in Regionalliga Ost but his style of play will have Schwechat fans on their feet, regardless of the results.
Fully focussed on the task ahead, Rivelino will be doing all he can to help keep his side up this season but what are his goals beyond this season?
“My ambition is just to play the highest level that I possibly can and as long as possible – hopefully being able to provide for my family. I believe I can play at a good level but I need to keep working hard, training and of course I still need a break!
“There are a few countries I would like to play in and I am training hard to get there. I’m a strong believer in not talking about things like this until it happens – so we will have to wait to see what happens.”
On Friday night, Rivelino’s side will be hosting second in the league. It’ll be a tough ask for Schwechat to pick up all three points but this 24-year-old has worked hard to reach where he is now and he will not be letting anyone take this opportunity away from him easily. There might still be a shock result in the Austrian third-tier this weekend.