Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho Gaucho's last association with India was during the inaugural edition of Premier Futsal where he scored five spectacular goals for Goa against Bengaluru before leaving for the 2016 Rio Paralympics in the middle of the tournament. But now, he has come back for more. The 37-year-old was in Mumbai on Friday to promote the second season of the tournament.
Ronaldinho, who extended a three-year contract with Premier Futsal, opened up about his special time at Barcelona, the impact of the FIFA U-17 World Cup and his take on Indian football growth in the last few years to a group of journalists at the venue. Here are excerpts from the interview:
Did futsal have any impact in your career as a footballer?
Yes, it did. Since the size of the ball in futsal is smaller, you have to think faster. You have to be more creative while controlling the ball. So all this helped me a lot when I stepped on the field.
India is quite a passionate footballing nation. It has recently even broken into the top 100 of the FIFA rankings for the first time. Apart from the current leagues in the country like Premier Futsal, what else do you think needs to be done for football in India to grow further?
I've been following Indian football closely, and I've seen it grow. Big names coming here to play is the right start. That way people get more passionate about the sport, kids get to fall in love seeing their idols play in front of their eyes. The more time they spend with the ball, the more they explore the magic of the game, the more it will grow. Especially after the success of Premier Futsal last year, I do believe it will draw youngsters in India towards football. It will also help other sports to grow in India.
Do you think India hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup and other league tournaments will help popularise sports further?
Definitely. Every sport helps, but it's very easy to fall in love with futsal. It's very dynamic. Every child can start playing it easily, and so I believe it will help in the development of the youth.
Was playing with Barcelona the best phase of your career?
Yes, it was one of the most amazing phases of my career. But thanks to God, I have happy memories of conquering titles with all the clubs that I represented. Barcelona, though, is a little extra special since I spent most of my time there.
Compared to the glorious years the Brazilian national team saw during your time, does it worry you to see the dip in the success rate off-late?
Football is made of moments. In our generation too we faced many tough moments, we even struggled to qualify for the World Cup. But we got past it. I see a lot of talent in the current crop of players. And I'm sure, like us, they'll get around this dip soon.
Updated Date: Jul 15, 2017 11:30 AM