New Delhi: Juventus remains a "part of his life" but Italian World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero, like a child, now wants to understand everything about India during his stint with Delhi Dynamos in the ISL, a tournament he hoped would help the 158-ranked national football team improve.
"I have never seen an Indian team playing but I will get to know more when I talk to my teammates. I hope ISL helps the national team," Del Piero said here today.
The 39-year-old, a Juventus legend for life, will be turning out for Dynamos as their marquee player in the much-awaited franchise-based league, to be held in various venues across the country from October 12 to December 20.
Del Piero recalled his days at Turin and spoke about his thoughts on leaving the Serie A club, which he didn't leave even when it was demoted. "It was extremely hard... Those 19 years are a great part of my life. In fact it is still a part of my life. It is my home and I will go back to Torino," the superstar striker and playmaker said.
Then he got talking about his latest challenge in a faraway land he wants to explore. "My target for ISL is that we have to bring a lot of energy and passion and I hope we find that in India as well. I am like a child who wants to understand everything about India. At the end of this experience I want to know more about India," he said.
To start with, the modest Del Piero, also nicknamed 'Il Fenomeno Vero' or The Real Phenomenon, thanked the city for the "very warm welcome" and said: "I am happy to be in India but one day is not enough". He arrived in the Capital after a 24-hour flight along with his brother-cum manager and a photographer friend.
"Just read a lot of things about India. One day is not enough but I completely understand that this is a completely different world than mine. I am really curious, food, religion culture I want to learn everything about you, it will be great," Del Piero said.
"There are many fans here but it's a different world and it's a new challenge for me. I am very excited to be here. I have been to many Asian countries, but this is my first time in India," he added. Speaking about the new tournament, he said, "ISL league is very important, the first few games are going to be important, to understand another country and another culture is a huge challenge.
"I understand that there will be a lot of difficult situations but you solve the problem and go forward, that is my target. The task is difficult but this is a new target," Del Piero, who has had a taste of "spicy" Indian food, said. Though a lot of marquee players are in their late 30s or early 40s, Del Piero, who scored in the semifinal and the all-important final in Italy's triumphant World Cup campaign in 2006, did not think it will have any negative effect.
"It won't have any negative effect, all of us can play with a great attitude. Age means that you have to take care of your fitness and yourself, that is the most important thing."
When asked how come the Italian players are always active, he said, "All these guys take care of themselves and they have a very good mind which keeps them going." And talking about playing against his former Juventus teammates such as David Trezeguet, who will playing for Pune FC, Del Piero said he was all pumped up.
"Trezeguet and all they are my former teammates and I am looking forward to matches against them." Asked if the ISL duration could have been longer, he said, "Travelling for 3-4 hours in a flight and then playing matches every three days, it is not going to be easy but this is what the challenge is."
As far as his playing position in the Dynamos outfit was concerned, Del Piero said, "I am in touch with the coach for the last 15 days, we have been speaking to each other over phone and we will have time to work out what is best for the team." He is the 10th all-time top-scorer in the Champions League and has featured in FIFA 100, a list of the top greatest living footballers compiled by Pele.
With Juventus, Del Piero won eight Serie A titles, a Champions League and a Coppa Italia. He has 91 international caps with the Azzuris and is remembered for scoring the second goal in the semifinal against Germany in the 2006 World Cup. In all, Del Piero represented Italy in seven major international tournaments (Euro 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008; World Cup 1998, 2002, 2006), the second Italian footballer after Paolo Maldini to do so.