ISL 2016: Aaron Hughes optimistic about the future of football in India
The former Fulham man spoke exclusively to Sportskeeda.
Aaron Hughes might not be the biggest name to have landed on Indian shores for the Indian Super League, but he just might become the best ever marquee signing this league has seen. Coming into the league at the back of helping the Northern Ireland team to the last 16 in the recently concluded Euro 2016, the defender is a huge coup for the Kerala Blasters.
The Kerala Blasters seem to have learnt a lesson from the past. The signing of Carlos Marchena last season was a disaster of the highest order as the ex-Spain international was able to play only 49 minutes the entire season. The yellow army didn’t get off to the best of starts this season, losing their opener against NorthEast United, but it was not due to the fault of the defence.
Hughes alongside Cedric Hengbart formed a formidable combination only to be undone by a wicked deflection. However, they will look to get off on the right foot as they host Atletico de Kolkata in their first home game. However, the Northern Ireland international will miss the next two games for the Blasters after being called up to play in the World Cup qualifiers for his nation.
Speaking to Sportskeeda before leaving on national duty, the former Newcastle United, Aston Villa and Fulham defender spoke about his long career, the footballing potential in India and also had some words of advice for the youngsters looking to take up the sport.
“India with its huge size, odds are that there will be a few names will be coming through the system pretty soon. You have to give some time. And with the passion and exuberance about the game I have seen amongst the youngsters here, I am sure to hear a few names coming through the system.
“You also have to give them the proper opportunities and the infrastructure to get them to the next level and I think with the ISL, I think that is starting to happen. These are things that sometimes people miss out on and that comes with experience. You understand what you really need to make the game grow. It’s a growing sport and with more experience and exposure, the game should take flight.
“And the sheer size of the country and the number of players it can produce, I can’t see why it can’t compete with the other countries.”
The Northern Ireland international has enjoyed a storied career since bursting onto the scene as a teenager coming through the ranks at Newcastle United. Making, his debut against Barcelona at the Nou Camp, his career has taken him to great heights and was capped off earlier this summer when he led the Northern Ireland side in Euro 2016.
Older but wiser
Speaking on his longevity, he acknowledged becoming much wiser as time has gone, helping him be in top shape to compete at the highest level. “As I have grown older, I think I have become much wiser and much more aware of what my body needs. I have learnt to take care of my body,” quipped the 36-year-old.
“You learn what you need and what you don’t. And it’s different for every person. If you ask anyone, they will say different things. You have to know what works best for you. I know now when to take your put your foot off the pedal and when to really go for it.”
The Kerala franchise star also had some words of advice for the youngsters looking to take up the game and felt that only commitment towards the game can help them achieve their goals.
“Commitment is key. Not only on the pitch, but also while on the training. You have to really stay committed towards the game. But even more important than that will be to enjoy the game. There is no point in really going for it if you are not really enjoying it.
“And that enjoyment really comes from hard work and seeing the hard work pay off on the pitch.
With Hughes off to international duty, the pressure will be even more on Steve Coppell to deliver Kerala, their first victory of the season as they take on Atletico de Kolkata, who looked to gel well under Jose Molina in their first game.