Mumbai: French football legend Robert Pires says it was his 'second daddy' Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who convinced him to come out of retirement and play in Indian Super League.
Pires, who is a World Cup winner, will turn out for FC Goa as their marquee player in the franchise-based league, to be held at various venues across the country from October 12 to December 20.
The celebrated mid-fielder said Arsene Wenger is like his father and it was he, who encouraged him to play in India. "He told me if you can play in India, you need to go. You love football and you have the passion, the message from Arsene Wenger for me was that you go. Wenger is like my second daddy. For me it was very positive to work with him in the six seasons, so when I explained this project in India he asked me not wait," the 40-year-old Arsenal legend told reporters here.
"I retired three years ago but I am still training with Arsenal because I have a good relation with the club and Arsene Wenger. So it's been easy to come out of retirement. My passion is football and I can still play. I am here, I am excited and I am looking forward to the league," he said.
Pires said he is certainly feeling the pressure of performace but he likes to excel in these situations. "I know that the weather is hot but I am ready and training very hard. I am like an ambassador for France, for FC Goa and I have a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. I feel the pressure but I like it. I am a professional and not a tourist. Tomorrow I meet my team mates and the objective for me is to win the title," Pires said.
Pires, who had 79 international appearances for the national side, will be playing alongside his former France team mate David Trezeguet and Arsenal team mate Freddie Ljungberg in the league. "I am sure for my ex-partners it is a good opportunity because the level is good. I am sure the Indian Super League will be a success. I have passion, I am ready and I am fit, I will like to win and I would like to train the Indian players for the future because I think you have a good future," he said.
Pires said he had got offers from Major Soccer Leagues and other countries but opted to play in the ISL. "I received a couple of offers from the MLS, from Qatar but for me the most important thing is passion. I think ISL will be a huge success," he said. He said that India is ranked quite low in the world but needed to "prepare and learn".
"I know you are ranked 158th in the world but you are just at the start. I think everything is positive for the country and especially for the Indian football," he said. India would be hosting the U-17 World Cup in 2017 and Pires said that having a youth academy to train kids would help to nurture talent. "For you, the next project is the World Cup, so you need to build a team. You are a huge country and I am sure have good players. Why not have an academy for the youth?," he suggested.