New league will lift Indian soccer, says Del Piero

Monday, 22 September 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Reuters: Alessandro Del Piero’s two-year Sydney FC stint helped raise A-League’s profile and the former Juventus great is confident of making a similar impact as the face of the Indian Super League (ISL), which kicks off next month. After 19 trophy-laden years at Juventus and the Australia sojourn, Del Piero landed in New Delhi on Thursday, making an unlikely stop on an illustrious career as a ‘marquee’ player of ISL’s Delhi franchise as well as the league’s brand ambassador. That he takes the new job seriously was evident as after a 24-hour flight from Los Angeles he headed straight to the ground where his Delhi team mates were practising and was back to face the media on Friday under a harsh sun near the parking lot at the Delhi University Stadium. “A-League experience was very good,” said the Italian who turns 40 in November. “I spent great two years in Sydney... I’m very privileged because everything incredibly moved forward in the league - the crowd, the TV interest, the money situation.” All of that he now wants to replicate in India, a cricket-mad country of 1.2 billion that currently ranks an embarrassing 158th in FIFA order. “I hope so, this is the target, but the task is different you know,” Del Piero said. “The league in Australia was already in, this is a new step... we want to take great first steps. “This is a completely new challenge and I hope this league can be good for the national team.” His former team mate from 2006 World Cup final Marco Materazzi, former France and Juventus striker David Trezeguet and compatriot Robert Pires, Spaniards Joan Capdevila and Luis Garcia and former Newcastle United striker Michael Chopra have confirmed their participation in the league. Bankrolled by Reliance Industries, controlled by the country’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, Rupert Murdoch’s Star India and sports management group IMG, the league with celebrity owners is scheduled to run from Oct. 12 to Dec. 20. Del Piero said it was his quest to experience soccer in different cultures that took him first to Australia and now to India. “It’s a completely new challenge for sure... also new opportunities is the best part of life. If you have opportunity to take it, it’s good to take it,” the 2006 World Cup winner said. “That’s why I am here, that’s why after 19 years in the same place I chose Sydney three years ago and then I chose India – to understand football in other countries, in other culture and other way. Not the same way I already know.” He wants to explore the country as well. “One day is not enough but I completely understand that this is a different world than mine but I’m curious and want to understand... everything about the country,” he added. “I’m like a child with big eyes, trying to understand from all what it means to live here and what is the culture,” he added.