Darko Churlinov: I have already given out some Schalke jerseys in Skopje

When the Royal Blues visit Rostock on Saturday, Darko Churlinov will return to his old stomping ground. F.C. Hansa discovered him when he was thirteen and playing at Vardar Skopje, and they brought him to Ostsee. In an interview with schalke04.de, the 21-year-old talks about his memories of his time Rostock, the upcoming second-tier clash, his first weeks with the team and World Cup qualification.

Rodrigo Zalazar und Darko Churlinov

Darko, you have been at Schalke for just over a month now. How have you settled in to your new club and new surroundings?
The team welcomed me from the start which made it easy to feel at home. I also found a flat quickly, and the move from Stuttgart to Gelsenkirchen went smoothly. That was important for me so I could concentrate immediately on playing football.

Which player helped you the most as you were getting to grips with everything?
I don’t want to name anyone in particular as it was the whole team. I got on especially well with Rodrigo Zalazar as he’s also a new player in the squad. We often eat together of an evening and spend time together.

You have already played in a few positions in your young career – on the left, the right, defensive and more attack-orientated. What position is your favourite?
I’m versatile and I’m always happy when I’m in the starting eleven. I think my strengths are dribbling and one-on-ones, which are mainly attacking traits. But I’m also happy taking on a more defensive role. No matter where the coach plays me, I’ll always give my best to help the team.

My time in Rostock was exciting for me and a real adventure.

Darko Churlinov

As a young player you spent a season with Hansa Rostock. How did that come about?
I was scouted when I was playing for Vardar Skopje. After that I was invited to trial with Rostock. I must have made a good impression in those two weeks because two months later I was wearing Rostock colours. It was an exciting time for me and a real adventure.

You speak really good German. Did you already speak the language when you moved to Rostock?
Thank you! No not a single word, but I learnt quickly. I thought that was important, because I wanted to be able to understand my teammates and at the same time be understood myself.

Looking back, how do you see your time with Rostock?
It was exciting, and a very important year in my career. After 12 months in Rostock I then moved to 1. FC Magdeburg and later on played in 1. FC Köln’s youth academy. I met a lot of good people in Rostock who helped me integrate. I’m still very grateful for that.

Rostock are your next opponents. Are there any players in their side that you know from back then?
As far as I know, there aren’t any in the current squad. I played with Oliver Daedlow when I was a kid and he was part of the Rostock team that got promoted last year, but he’s out on loan at TSV Havelse at the moment.

Darko Churlinov

You’re familiar with the Ostsee-Stadion. What will the team need to do on Saturday evening?
There are no easy games in the second division. The Rostock fans will be loud and support their team all the way, but we can’t let ourselves be influenced by that. We need to play our own game and show that we can do better than we did last time out against Karlsruhe.

You were born and raised in Skopje. Did you know that there is a friendship between the Schalke fans and the fans of Vardar Skopje?
Of course. In May 2013 FC Schalke 04 were guests in my hometown for a friendly. The game meant a huge amount to the Vardar fans as well as the S04 fans, as far as I know. I can remember the day as if it was yesterday, because I was allowed onto the pitch at half time.

How were you able to get on the pitch?
There was a short game between the local youth teams of Vardar and FK Rabotnicki. It was a really special moment for me, as there were thousands of fans in the stadium watching us. We then went back to the terraces and watched the second half of the Schalke game from there.

In May 2013 FC Schalke 04 were guests in my hometown for a friendly. I can remember the day as if it was yesterday, because I was allowed onto the pitch at half time.

Darko Churlinov

Have you got any messages from Skopje after moving to FC Schalke 04?
Just one or two (laughs) – no, I’ve had so, so many. The people in Skopje are proud that I’m a Schalker. They all wished me luck for my new task.

Did you have to get a few jerseys for them?
When I last went to play with the national team, I had a few shirts in my suitcase, yes. I gave them out in Skopje.

You made your international debut aged 16, and this summer played at EURO 2020 with North Macedonia. How proud did it make you to play for your country at such a young age?
It meant a lot to me. As a boy, my dream was to play for the national team and wear the colours of my country. My experiences in the national team have helped me develop a lot in a sporting sense. Through the international game I was able to play at the highest level even early on in my career, and mix it up with the best players in Europe.

You’re currently taking part in the World Cup qualification process with North Macedonia. In group J, which Germany are also playing in, you’re currently fourth, but the play-off place is just two points away. Do you think you’ll still have a chance in the remaining four games?
Of course. In October we play Liechtenstein and Germany. The match against Germany won’t be easy, but it will be a home game for us in Skopje, which is a plus for us. We showed in the away game against them that it’s possible to beat Germany. You just need to catch them on a good day, which we did then – why can’t that happen a second time? We have a lot of quality in the team, and I’m really looking forward to the game already. That said, before I go to the national team in October, I want to have two successful games for Schalke against Rostock and then Ingolstadt.

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