Mumbai: Former Chelsea legend and French international footballer Nicolas Anelka believes that Indian football needs the presence of glamour and celebrities to give it an impetus to grow and be recognised at the global arena.
“You speak about India and it’s all cricket. But Indian football needs a little bit of glamour and celebrities for it to be recognised, which is why foreign footballers are signed up for the league. We are here to promote football in the country. I was in Dubai, France and England, and everybody there is aware about the ISL,” Anelka, who over the past 20 years has featured in top teams such as Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Fenerbahçe, Liverpool and Juventus, said.
Donning a new role this season in the Indian Super League for the Ranbir Kapoor co-owned Mumbai City FC, that of a marquee player-cum-manger, is it an added pressure on his shoulders?
“No, football is fun. I’m enjoying playing it. It’s even better with the new role because I know what the player wants. I’m a player as well. I will speak a lot to the people around me. It’s going to be better because the communication is going to be good. I’m going to be a player and sometimes a manager as well,” Anelka pointed out on the sidelines of his team’s new jersey launch associated with PUMA, here on Saturday.
Mumbai City FC finished seventh last season and the Frenchman, with his firepower of tactics and experience in his kitty, is pretty kicked about the upcoming season and has set his sights on clinching the crown for the Mumbai outfit.
“When I start something, I want it done. For me the end will be to win. However, we have a big squad and the challenge will be to go as far as we can go. We are happy with the signings. The target this season is go out there and win this ISL. I know its football and anything can happen but as long as I’m there, we’ll do everything on the pitch and give it our best,” he said.
Anelka had been the manager of Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua in 2012 but the media shy striker was able to share his plans the best equation a manger can have with a player, and will also be happy if he’s not featured in the squad.
“As a manger, I have to be active on the pitch and see a good game, watch out for good tactics. I will be happy to be on the pitch, I don’t need to be playing but to see every player perform and win for the team is in itself happiness for me even if I don’t play,” Anelka asserted.
Fredrik Ljungberg, who featured for Mumbai City FC last season, was a victim of the city’s terrible weather conditions suffering from severe cramps. Anleka is aware of this fact and has decided to take his team to Dubai as part of its pre-season training.
“Dubai is going to be hot and in fact, hotter than Mumbai, so everybody can acclimatise to the weather and then to come back to Mumbai where it will be easier. We will train and play four games there. It’s going to be hot and tough, playing in the morning and afternoon,” Anelka added.
Anleka, who decided to buy Belgian club Royal Geants Athois in order to bail the outfit out of financial difficulties, is quite aware of his opponents and also a certain Roberto Carlos (player-cum-manager of Delhi Dynamos). “Of course, it’s going to be tough for everybody. It’s not an easy league. Everybody wants to win. The first game is the most important (against Pune City FC on October 5). Pune is good team, we’ll have to perform well,” he noted.
All said and done, the underlying question always remains: Will Nicolas Anelka be seen on the international front again, a question that’s left only for him to answer. “I don’t know the future. Premier League is finished for me. I’m happy to be playing in Mumbai but you never know,” the 36-year-old Anelka signed off....