What he said:
“When I first told my family and friends about signing on with the ISL they did not believe me, they thought it was a joke! My family asked if I had gone crazy!”
Spanish World Cup winner, Joan Capdevila, is not deranged but had a hard time convincing his family members that he had not lost his senses when he conveyed his decision to play for NorthEast United Football Club (NEUFC) in the still nascent Indian Super League (ISL).
The left-back is the team’s marquee player.
The ISL begins in October this year and will run till December. It will have eight teams.Each team has one marquee player and seven foreigners. Only two of the seven foreign players can be directly recruited; the other five are are picked in the foreign player draft. Each team will also have 14 Indian footballers.
“When I showed them (my family) all the proof, they asked me if I was sure about this. But now since the ISL momentum is picking up, they are looking forward to my updates on my experience. My friends may also come down to see me but my family unfortunately will not.”
The presence of many Spaniards in the league has contributed to some excitement in Spain too.
“To be honest, there wasn’t much buzz in Spain about the ISL at the start. Now with more international players signing with teams, the Spanish fans are excited to see this amalgamation of known and unknown talents. I am also eager for the games to begin as it will globalise the football industry further.”
“This is very different from other leagues. In India, it is just starting and this is a very nice beginning. It is a very nice project which is going to be for a lot of years. Indian football is going to grow and would call a lot of attention of other players for sure. It is a nice project for the future to be put like a league for the whole year. After many years, it is going to be the main league of India for sure.”
Actor-producer John Abraham, also a co-owner of the NEUFC side, said:
“We feel that this is an incubation league. This is to quickstart the interest of football in the country. We are looking at a very long term vision, that we believe that this two-and-half month league would probably at some point be an eight month or nine month league.
Maybe it could merge with the premier league or it could be the Premier League. I believe that the ISL will become a seven or eight month league, given a gestation period of three to five years.
Initially, it (opting for overseas players past their prime) would help. It is very important to get players with that kind of experience on board. Having players like Capdevila and other marquee players, it will help. I think it will help in the short run initially to spark off the interest and be a catalyst but in the long run of course we need to re-strategize and understand what we need to do.
As far as NorthEast United is concerned, we are very clear that our focus is young domestic players. As of today, we have the youngest team in the ISL by five years. And we will make sure by next year, we will be a far younger team.”
Meanwhile, Capdevila feels that Spain should not abandon the tiki-taka style of play.
“It’s time for change and bring in some new players.
I hope Spain is at their highest level again from tomorrow but honestly it’s going to take longer.
For the next Euro Cup it is going to be difficult but I hope to see them challenging again for the 2018 World Cup. But I am not sure yet as the players are very young.
The style of playing for Spain is going to be the same, just the players are going to change.
It has been the style for many, many years and I will be surprised if (coach) Vicente del Bosquecan now change their style of play.”
What Capdevila really meant:
“India is not known for its footballing prowess. And you want to play in the heat and humidity? Are you crazy? What about the language? And the food?”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I’m not a spring chicken anymore. India will do nicely. Let’s just term the terms—pre-retirement benefits.”