Interview with Quinton Fortune: Indian football fans' passion has left a mark on me
Having spent seven seasons at Premier League side Manchester United, Quinton Fortune needs no introduction. The former player was recently in India for the ILOVEUNITEDINDIA event in Bangalore when Liverpool lost at Old Trafford, and he took back a treasure trove of great experiences from the country.
We managed to catch up with him in Manchester and get his thoughts on the event and the Red Devils’ season so far. Here are the excerpts of the interview:
Why is an initiative like ILOVEUNITED India so important?
I saw firsthand why ILOVEUNITEDINDIA is such an important initiative; the event in Bangalore was a celebration of Manchester United and a great way for us to connect with our fans in India.
It was a great day, especially with the what turned out to victory over our local rivals Liverpool. The passion of our fans in India is unbelievable and I was proud to be there representing this great football club.
With 35 million followers in India, we wanted to ensure we were doing something special to share our passion for Manchester United with this huge fan base; it’s simply too big a figure to ignore and we recognise that football is becoming a popular sport in India.
What do you aim to gain from it?
Manchester United does a lot in India, not only on our own but also with our commercial partners, who have worked on a number of initiatives to help ignite a passion for football, especially amongst the kids. They are the next generation of footballers and supporters.
I have no doubt that our two ILOVEUNITEDINDIA events will definitely raise the excitement of the game and the Club; that much is clear from the atmosphere in Bangalore! There is no other club like Manchester United for its history and its passion.
While I was there with Indian supporters to watch the one of the most popular matches in the football calendar (v Liverpool), fans in Mumbai will be enjoying another of our important games of the season against Arsenal (on 28 Feb).
It will be another great event and the club and our commercial partners are working hard to put on a full schedule of entertainment to help build up that excitement. It’s a completely free event; all you have to do is go to www.ManUtd.com/ILoveUnitedIndia and apply for a ticket. The event is to be held at Reliance Jio Gardens, BandraKurla Complex, Bandra East.
What is your take on Indian football and fans?
Having now been a part of events this season with Manchester United in Delhi and Bangalore, the passion of Indian football fans has left a firm mark on me. I know that traditionally cricket is the sport to watch and the one all the kids are playing, but I think we have definitely seen a change in the last few years, with football and the English Premier League becoming more and more popular.
I first visited India in 2012 and had the pleasure of returning a couple of times since then and the growth in the popularity of football is clear to see. On Instagram and Twitter, I enjoy interacting with Indian fans and I can see how the passion for the game has grown. During my first visit every street corner had a group of children playing cricket, but now I’ve started to see more kids playing football.
The ISL has also played a big part. We have seen ex-Premier League players take part in the ISL, like my old teammate Mikael Silvestre. I know he really enjoyed playing in that league and the more the fans get behind it the more chance they have of attracting big name stars.
What is your take on Wayne Rooney’s current form?
Wayne is still a world class player and he has matured a lot, particularly as his role has changed. He’s now the team captain, meaning his role isn’t always about grabbing the goals but organising the team so others can score.
And despite all that is being said he’s still scoring; he’s been on a good run of form recently, including his excellently taken winner in the big match at Anfield. In recent months he’s become England’s all-time leading goalscorer, has passed the 500 club appearances mark and taken over Denis Law’s United scoring record, moving him to second in the rankings behind Sir Bobby.
Having now scored 244 goals, he just needs five more to meet this milestone. He’s still leading by example.
The team is not doing so well on the field. What do you make of Louis van Gaal’s potential sticky situation?
The manager has said himself that we aren’t quite playing the way we would hope. He has his way of doing things and new methods which can take time to be embedded at a club. We may not be quite where we want to be but a Champions League place is still well within our grasp.
Mr Van Gaal is a proven manager with experience and if you speak to anyone at the clubs he has managed before, such as Bayern Munich or Barcelona, they will tell you that he is a great manager and his methods have become a legacy at those clubs.
It’s important to stick together; we have good players and staff and historically the best results come when we stick together as a team.