BENGALURU: Arsenal legend and 1998 FIFA World Cup star Robert Pires was in Bengaluru at the sports store in Indiranagar where football enthusiasts and Arsenal fans got an opportunity to witness the legend and hear him talk about his football journey. He spoke to City Express about being part of Arsenal, Arsene Wenger and Indian football.
How was it playing for Arsenal and under Arsene Wenger?
I had an amazing time playing for Arsenal and under Wenger. He is like a professor. He would monitor each and everything happening within the club and teach you so many things. I feel proud to be an Arsenal ambassador. Seeing Arsenal’s Invincibles seal their title at White Hart Lane is one of my best memories.
Talking about the Invincibles, how was your experience and who was toughest opponent during that season?
It was a dream come true for me. Playing with Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry was so much fun. That team was special, and winning the 2004 Premier League title at White Hart Lane and defeating Tottenham was very special. Talking about opponents, I think Manchester United were really tough. They had a solid team and their strategies were brilliant. I learnt a lot playing against them. It was also a privilege and fun to play against David Beckham back then.
Football in India is picking momentum through leagues such as the ISL (Indian Super League) and tournaments such as the ongoing U-17 World Cup. Where do you feel the country’s football is heading?
It’s amazing to see Indian football grow so rapidly. It’s great to be back in India and see how in the past 4-5 years, there has been a paradigm shift in Indian football. The ISL is undoubtedly the biggest revolution in Indian football. Personally, I have great expectations from India. Playing for FC Goa was good fun, and it’s great to see people in India love football and closely follow the sport. This is the right time to nurture talent and create the right environment to promote the sport here.
How do you like Bengaluru? What is your opinion on the city’s football scene?
This is my first visit to the city, and it’s great to see so many Arsenal supporters here. I can already see how much people love football in the city. I also admire how much the city supports and loves their team Bengaluru FC. It’s special to see so much affection and warmth for the sport. I will definitely visit Bengaluru very soon.