A peep into Pires’ new world

With his nine-year-old son Theo showing plenty of promise and with a new ‘Star Sixes’ tournament, which will reunite the world’s greatest players in their national team colours and renew old rivalries, just a few months away, the Arsenal legend has been occasionally training with the Gunners’ first team to stay in shape.

Robert Pires was in Mumbai as part of the first official screening of an Arsenal game, the Premier League’s North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur.

He officially hung up his boots more than a year ago but you can’t keep Robert Pires away from football for long.

With his nine-year-old son Theo showing plenty of promise and with a new ‘Star Sixes’ tournament, which will reunite the world’s greatest players in their national team colours and renew old rivalries, just a few months away, the Arsenal legend has been occasionally training with the Gunners’ first team to stay in shape.

“Sometimes, I miss football…I mean the real thing. But I think the Star Sixes is a great idea,” said Pires in a chat with Sportstar, as he offered a peep into his new world, at the Mehboob Studios here on Sunday.

“It will be interesting because Ronaldinho will be the captain of Brazil, Steven Gerard will be leading England and (Carles) Puyol for Spain,” said the 43-year-old, a World Cup winner with France in 1998, about the new six-a-side tournament which will kick off in London next July.

“I think it’s going to be a new brand of football, everything will be compact. And it will be very good for fans because they will get to see all the former greats in action again.”

Pires was in the city as part of the first official screening of an Arsenal game in Mumbai, the Premier League’s North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur, at the venue in front of wildly cheering fans.

Pires was a vital part of the Arsenal’s all-conquering team of 2004, whom the coach Arsene Wenger once described as the ‘oil in the engine’ of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’. And the Frenchman is clear that he does not want that sort of pressure for his talented son Theo.

“For Theo, it is very important that he enjoys the game and training. He loves football, he loves Arsenal, he loves to go to the Emirates,” said the famed Arsenal winger who played for FC Goa in the inaugural Indian Super League two years ago.

“Sometimes, I give him some advice but I don’t want to push him, I don’t want to put pressure on him. He is only nine, he has lots of time, he can learn good football because he is at the Arsenal academy which is very good. And he has signed the contract for Arsenal, his head is only for Arsenal.”

He wants India too to catch its children young, if it wants to climb football’s world ladder and play in the World Cup some day.

Longer league crucial

"I played one season in the ISL, you have a lot of potential, you have big stadiums, it was amazing to see the huge crowd in that big stadium in Kerala, and the people love football but you need more academies for the young players,” said the Frenchman. “Because they need to learn and if you want to learn, you need good academies.”

The ISL has made Indian football visible to the world, felt Pires. “The mix of Indians and foreigners will be a blessing for your country but you need to play longer. The ISL is too short. If you want to grow, you need to have a longer league.”