The first World Cup winner to be confirmed for the Indian Super League was Spaniard Joan Capdevila, who signed for NorthEast United FC after a meeting with the Guwahati franchise representatives during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Capdevila turned 36 in February 2014 but wasn’t keen on retiring and so when the opportunity came to join a team in India’s new cash-rich football league, the former Spain left back accepted it.
“I was at a point in my career where I was looking for a new challenge. I didn't want to retire just yet and this new experience came at the right time for me and hence I have plunged in and taken the leap. I look forward to a phenomenal season under the guidance of Ricki Herbert and I am thankful for this opportunity as this experience will add dimension to my footballing career,” Capdevila told Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview which was coordinated by Estrada.
But unlike some of the marquee foreigners of the ISL, who are coming out of retirement, Capdevila was playing for Espanyol in last season’s La Liga so it was a surprise to many that he decided to move to a country that is undoubtedly a minnow in world football.
“Well I have been fortunate to have had a successful run representing my country and playing for Espanyol in the La Liga. I love new challenges and coming to India and playing for NorthEast United FC seemed very exciting. Everything starts small and I hope that I can add value to the growth of my team and this sport at large in India,” answered Capdevila.
However the former Villarreal, Benfica and Deportivo defender was honest enough to admit that the move came as huge shock to his friends and family.
“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! When I showed them 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,” he revealed.
Capdevila hasn’t thought about retiring just yet and is determined to have a major influence on his younger teammates both on and off the pitch.
“Well given that I am in the last phase of my football career, I hope despite my age I can add value through experience to my team. I thought this opportunity to be a very good one to take up as I feel with the experience I have gained I hope can share the same with my younger teammates,” he stated.
The Catalonia-born player is well aware of the passion for football that exists in the north-east part of India and is expecting great support in the inaugural edition of the ISL. He also admitted that although people in Spain were initially unaware about India’s new league, there is now excitement in his homeland especially with the presence of several Spaniards.
“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,” he said.
Capdevila is convinced that even current big names of world football will be seen in action in future seasons of the ISL and is hopeful of football becoming a religion in India.
“This is a great initiative to push football forward in India. I hope in some years it reaches the level of popularity that cricket has today. Also possibly even beyond, where football becomes the new religion of India like it is back home in Spain,” said the player who was capped 60 times for Spain at senior international level between 2002 and 2011.
The interview couldn’t have been completed without hearing Capdevila’s view about Spain’s early exit from the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The 2010 World Cup and 2008 European Championship winner believes that the current Spanish side lacks a little maturity.
“Everybody in Spain hopes that Spain comes back to the same level they were at. Right now there are a of lot young players who are not mature enough to compete for the same aims and levels that were vital to the 2008-2010 winning spirit of Spain,” he concluded.