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Interview with Mikael Silvestre: Indian youngsters are not yet ready to play in the EPL

The ex-Manchester United and Arsenal defender also spoke about the ISL and whether he will feature in the 2015 edition.

FEATURED WRITER
Exclusive 18 May 2015, 19:58 IST
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Mikael Silvestre
Mikael Silvestre

Of international footballers I have come across since the inception of Indian Super League, nobody’s exuberance resembles that of Mikael Silvestre. 7 teams and over 500 top flight games old, the French veteran still approaches every game with the excitement with which he would have approached his debut some 17 years ago for Rennes.

While we were looking forward to a top EPL game being screened here in the capital, it would bear no relation to the restlessness in him. It was almost like he would rather be on the pitch than in a club watching it on a big screen. The excitement, 17 years into football, separates him from others who, on some days would look upon playing the beautiful game as a job.

In the chat that ensued on Sunday, the former Manchester United, Arsenal and Inter Milan player talks about life away from the Premier League, his experience in India so far and how he sees extraordinary potential in youngsters here.

Hey Mikael, greetings from SportsKeeda. Albeit slightly inconsequential, it must be really special to see two of your former teams take the field today?

Definitely! I had a great time, both at Manchester and later in Arsenal. Playing under great managers and with a supremely talented bunch benefited me immensely and has made me what I am. I thus get extremely emotional whenever I see these sides play.

The aura at Old Trafford, I can only imagine would be absolutely electric today. Much like your ISL, people would go absolutely berserk there today.

Since you mention the ISL, how did you think the first edition went?

Well, I think it was a resounding success if you consider the number of people who flocked into the stadiums on a daily basis. The playing conditions, however, left a lot to be desired. I mean, the grounds were extremely hard. If you leave Delhi and Goa aside, all others left a lot to be desired, especially places like Chennai – they would make the players injury prone and that doesn’t do any good.

I understand it was the first edition though and you can only move upwards from here.

Would we be seeing you next season too then?

I am not sure yet. I have been in talks with teams. Let’s hope something works out.

From what we hear, you have been offered the manager’s post at Delhi Dynamos. Is that true? Are you contemplating the offer?

Well, as I said, I wouldn’t like to comment on it. As and when something transpires, we will let you guys know.

Getting back to the tournament itself, do you think having a shorter 2-month league is good for the upliftment of the game here?

I think so, yes. I hear the I-League wasn’t so successful and if the ISL can get people hooked to the game here, why not. There are limitations obviously, you are playing/ travelling every day and it works wonderfully if you are winning. However, if you end up having a rough time, it can get extremely lonely out there. Maybe the organizers can take into account that players need to spend time with their families too.

Also, I have been told that some of the teams (from the I-League) didn’t release their players for the ISL. That has to be sorted. I mean if at all the overall standard of the game has to go up, all your good players have to be a part of the spectacle that it is.

It has also proved to be a breeding ground for Indian youngsters who aspire to play abroad, with the likes of Romeo Fernandes making it to the league in Brazil. Do you think someday we can hope to see Indian players play in the EPL too?

Right now, no. The Indian youngsters, as enthusiastic as they are, need to develop a lot – both technically and physically – to play in the Premier League. It should happen eventually though, maybe a couple of more ISL seasons shall prove decisive. 

The interview was conducted as part of United Live's event At Zorba in New Delhi on May 17, 2015.

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