FC Goa's marquee player Robert Pires, one of the biggest footballers to be seen in action at the inaugural Indian Super League (ISL), has revealed how Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger played a crucial role in him signing for the franchise-based ISL.
Goa marquee player Robert Pires (right) juggles a football as cricketer and co-owner of the club Virat Kohli and Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan (left) look on yesterday. Pic/Satyajit Desai
"When I told Arsene about the Indian Super League offer, he said, 'Robert if you can play in India, then you should go. You love football and have a passion for the sport.' This was very important for me as Arsene Wenger is like my second daddy," Pires told reporters during a media interaction yesterday.
IMG-R global football vice-president Andy Knee had earlier revealed how Wenger had written a letter to the tournament's organisers certifying that Pires was fit enough to play in the ISL despite having retired three years ago.
Pires, whose six-season stint at Arsenal saw him become one of the legends of the London club, has been maintaining his fitness by training regularly with the Gunners first team at the Colney ground in the British capital.
A picture Pires posted on Twitter on Monday which shows fans gathered at the Mumbai airport to receive him. Pires captioned the picture: "Didn't know I had so many fans in India!!!"
"I retired three years ago, but I am still training with Arsenal because I have good relations with the club and Arsene Wenger. So, it's been easy to come out of retirement," said Pires, who was part of the Invincibles Arsenal side of 2003-04 that earned that tag for being unbeaten en route the EPL title.
Wenger's backing notwithstanding, many have doubted whether the 40-year-old will be able to cope with the demands of the ISL. But the Frenchman insisted: "I have passion, I'm ready and I'm fit.
I know the conditions during the league will be hot, but I'm ready. I love pressure. I'm a professional and not a tourist," before adding that he was ready to even play thrice a week if needed.
Pires also revealed that in the three years since calling time on his career, he had received offers from the Major Soccer League (MLS) and also from a team in Qatar.
"I received a couple of offers from the MLS, from Qatar but for me the most important thing is passion," he said.