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Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger backs India to become next football powerhouse

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels leagues like the Indian Super League will one day attract top European superstars

football Updated: Jan 20, 2017 18:48 IST
indian football,indian super league,ISL
Mohammed Rafi of Kerala Blasters FC heads the ball into the Atletico de Kolkata goal in an Indian Super League match at Kolkata’s Rabindra Sarobar Stadium in November 2016. Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger believes that India would become the next footballing powerhouse to lure top European stars(ISL)

After former president of Fifa Sepp Blatter called India a ‘sleeping giant’, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger believes that India would become the next footballing powerhouse that will attract top European stars.

Arsene Wenger’s comments centre around the Indian Super League (ISL) that was created to lift the standard of football in India.

In the three ISL seasons, Indian fans have seen a number of legends like Alessandro del Piero, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljunberg, Diego Forlan, Florent Malouda, Luis Garcia and John Arne Riise participate.

India have achieved a FIFA ranking of 129, their best in over a decade. (AIFF)

On January 12, the Indian national team obtained its best ranking in world football in over a decade. The FIFA ranking of 129 is also a huge improvement of 42 places in less than two years apart from being the best ever since August 2006.

The Indian football team had an encouraging 2016, winning 9 of their last 11 International matches. A win against Peurto Rico, a side ranked 114, was the highlight of the year.

“It (football league) demands years of culture and work. You do not create a top league just like that, but personally I am very happy and I expect India to come to the game, and hope it will happen.

“But when you want to be a player your first aspiration is to play in the best league, against the best players. After that, when you are a professional you want to combine the fact you can play in the best league, against the best players, for the maximum amount of money,” Wenger was quoted as saying.

China have become a hot destination for European footballers to ply their trade after being offered lucrative deals.

Several big names like Carlos Tevez and Oscar have moved from top clubs like Boca Juniors and Chelsea to play in China. Chelsea’s Diego Costa is also reportedly in the fray to join the Chinese league.

“China have moved forward, tries to promote football and I’m happy that football is becoming very popular in China. But I still think most of the big players will stay in Europe at the moment,” said Wenger.

First Published: Jan 20, 2017 18:47 IST