Football could become India's most popular sport, says World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff

"I know that it's a different sport, and cricket is popular in the country, but the situation could be different tomorrow and football could become popular," says Former French footballer Youri Djorkaeff.

Youri Djorkaeff says though cricket is the most popular sport in India, football will soon catch up.   -  Getty Images

Frenchman Youri Djorkaeff has played for nine clubs, including Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, English outfits Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers among others, in an 18-year career which was studded with a World Cup medal in 1998. 

An LFP ambassador now, Djorkaeff feels even a club with the resources of Paris Saint-Germain needs to be playing tough opponents at home to thrive in the Champions League.

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He also says that football in India can gain popularity in the coming years, though cricket remains higher on the popularity list currently.

"I heard that the Indian league is becoming stronger and stronger," he said at an interaction with the Indian media ahead of the Coupe de la Ligue final BKT on Saturday.

"I know that it's a different sport, and cricket is popular in the country, but the situation could be different tomorrow and football could become popular. I was invited to visit India in January, but I couldn't make it," he said.

- English football fiercely competitive -

Talking about the difference between the football leagues in Europe, Djorkaeff said the Premier League is special because of the competition between the top teams and the clubs below them. 

"In England, you don't have the time to prepare. What is incredible in England is anyone can beat anyone. That is the best football in the world. In France, you know PSG are going to come out on top most days, but the competition in England is very good."

- PSG needs competitors -

About the French top flight and a seeming lack of competition for PSG, Djorkaeff said, "PSG is the biggest club in France, not just about trophies, but the club's image, players. This year, PSG lost to Manchester United in the Champions League, but we must understand that it's not easy against the great teams you get in the competition. But PSG will come back strong next year and soon, win the trophy.

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"PSG need good competition in Ligue 1 - a good second and third competitor - to be more competitive in the Champions League, where you play Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, Liverpool, among others.

He continued, "Monaco, Marseille and Lyon have the capacity to challenge Paris Saint-Germain. And Ligue 1 also needs more teams competing for the trophy to make the league attractive."

- Important for PSG to retain Mbappe -

A 2018 World Cup winner with France, Kylian Mbappe is essential for PSG and the welfare of French football and league, the 51-year-old said. 

"Mbappe is a great player for France and Paris Saint-Germain. He loves the game, [is] someone who wants to enjoy the game, and that is key to him being successful."

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About the difficulty of PSG keeping a top player like Mbappe, Djorkaeff said, "Mbappe will be a priority player for all the big clubs in the world. It will be very important for PSG to keep him and for the French league as well, it's important to have Mbappe plying his trade here."

Djorkaeff felt for his countryman and former Arsenal forward, Thierry Henry, who was sacked by Monaco just three months into his job.

"He had a bad experience, but the situation Monaco was in made life difficult for Henry. I am sure he will be back. He loves football and given the right situation, he'll return and do well."

(The writer is in France at the invitation of LFP)

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