ISL 2018-19: League needs foreign expertise to improve standard of football, says Robert Pires

New Delhi: The standard of football at the Indian Super League (ISL) has been stagnant over the course of its five seasons, Robert Pires, long-time Arsenal player and part of the 1998 World Cup-winning French team, said on Thursday.

 ISL 2018-19: League needs foreign expertise to improve standard of football, says Robert Pires

File image of Robert Pires at the opening season of ISL. Sportzpics

Speaking at the launch of LaLiga’s grassroots football development programme in India at Noida’s Pathways School, Pires dwelled on the importance of learning from global footballing philosophies, and advocated the need to develop a combination of Indian and foreign managers.

Pires, who played for FC Goa in ISL’s opening season as their marquee player and took the field in eight matches, said he still keeps track of the league and is open to rejoin it in any leadership or advisory capacity.

“I still keep track of ISL. For me, it was a great experiment to be part of season one of ISL. If they want me for some help or advice, I will be happy to join,” the 44-year-old said.

“I think it’s (quality of football in ISL) been the same for four-five years. You need more experiments. In India, you need more foreign managers and trainers. You need more English, French, Italian and Portuguese people, because we have a certain footballing philosophy, and if you want to grow, you need to have these people with you.

“The hours of football we have played around the world, maybe we can help the young players here. If we can find a good mix between Indians and Europeans, I think it will be very good for Indian football,” he added.

One of the continuing criticisms about ISL has been investing in foreign players who are past their prime, both in terms of agility and technique. Pires, however, reckoned that international players on the other side of 30 and with the right motivation have a lot to offer to the Indian football.

“I think age is really not the factor if you have the motivation,” he said while responding to a query on possible age-cap of foreign players.

“You can play like me, like 40, 41 years…just think of the motivation. Now the most important thing for ISL is to find good players that they want to play in India. It is different if you play in Europe. In India, football is unfortunately not at the same level. If you go to India because you want to help the new generation, I think this is a good idea,” he said.

Further, Pires supported Girona FC’s decision to play Kerala Blasters in Kochi earlier this year, and added that the move might translate to big clubs lining up in India for pre-season matches.

“I think Girona playing in India is a start. Of course, they are not a very big club in La Liga, but they can still help you. For me, this is a good start. Maybe in 2-3 years on, we can watch Barcelona and Real Madrid in India because now LaLiga knows there is space for both cricket and football in India.”

‘Not worried for Arsenal’

Pires spent six years of his club career with Gunners, and played a key role in them winning the Premier League in 2003-04 season. A veteran of 189 appearances for Arsenal, the Frenchman heaped lavish praise on his ex-manager Arsene Wenger, and expressed hope for a new era under Unai Emery.

“Arsenal have changed everything. Arsene Wenger is not here, the CEO Ivan Gazidis has left for AC Milan… so now Unai Emry can build a very good team. Arsenal have spent money for some very good players, and I am not too afraid for them.

“Of course, the start to the season was difficult, but we now we are on a good run for the past five games,” Pires said, referring to Arsenal’s Premier League loss to Manchester City in August and a subsequent sequence of wins in Carabao Cup and Europa League.

“Of course it is a totally different under Emry…new manager, new football philosophy, but for the moment I think it’s going well,” Pires concluded.

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Updated Date: Oct 04, 2018 20:35:21 IST