Former ManCity footballer Shaun Wright-Phillips thinks India is ‘close to qualifying for 2026 FIFA World Cup’

The former Manchester City footballer, who was recently in India, talks about India’s chances at qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, the overall growth in quality of players and the popularity of sport in the country.
Manchester City’s Shaun Wright-Phillips in action on field in 2019. (Photo: Action Images via Reuter)
Manchester City’s Shaun Wright-Phillips in action on field in 2019. (Photo: Action Images via Reuter)
Published on Apr 30, 2022 06:38 PM IST
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BySiddhi Jain

Former English footballer Shaun Wright-Phillips, has been a popular name, with a huge fanbase across the world, including India, ever since he scored the (now) famous right-footed volley, during a 4-1 win against arch rivals Manchester United, during the 2004-05 season of the English Premier League (EPL).

The 40-year-old, is still contributing to the sport outside the pitch, and was on his maiden visit to India to support Mumbai City FC. Wright-Phillips, who has played football at the highest level for more than a decade, is all praises for Indian football talent.

“I didn’t think India was so football-oriented, but to see the fans appreciate the sport, was a dream sight to see. I met a footballer in Bengaluru who plays for the national team and he seemed like a massive personality, and I’d keep my eye on him and will even follow him on social media,” he says.

“I think India is very close to qualifying for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. I’ve been watching young players in Bengaluru play, and now I’m in Mumbai to see Mumbai City FC, and I’m very impressed. There seems to be a foundation in them, the kids are getting into it young and there’s more time for them to learn. And they will be out to face the challenges head-on,” adds the former Manchester City player, who played for the English club for 10 seasons (1999-2005 and 2008-11).

Speaking of World Cups, the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar has divided football fans across the globe, since the popular event, unlike its previous editions, will take place in November, which would impact club football. While Wright-Phillips understand that mid-season breaks for football clubs “will be difficult”, he feels that the last few seasons which were played during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, would have mentally and physically prepared the players.

“It’s going to be difficult because it’s the middle of the season. But the Major Soccer League (MSL) has been dealing with it for years now. The players are professional enough, the managers and coaches are professional enough, and that’s something that we saw during Covid-19 lockdown, as they had to play back-to-back seasons without any break. I think they will handle it fine,” he says.

Three generations in football, who play or have played with different football clubs, one would choose to place their bets on the fact that anything else except football would dominate the Wright-Phillips dinner-time conversations. That’s, however, not the case!

“We don’t talk about football,” he laughs. “To be honest, I’m a dad and my dad’s a dad. We talk about family stuff more than anything else. Football is always on the small scale, to the point that we ask, ‘How you doing? How do you think you did in that game?’ and then it’s back to being family,” he adds.

Oh, and who does he think will the league this season? “That’s a trick question, right?,” he laughs before adding “For the Premier League, Man City and England for the World Cup,” as he signs off .

Author tweets @siddhijainn

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Thursday, June 30, 2022