India Beckons FIGO

Nike's global launch of specially-made jerseys for the teams sponsored by the company in the World Cup provided the best occasion for some stars to interact with the media in a relaxed mood and, as Luis Figo (Pic. above, right with Adriano) put it, "in our comfortable jerseys". Taking a look at his jersey, the Portuguese icon remarked, "I like it. I hope back in Portugal they will like it."

The organisers had planned short interview sessions for the benefit of the visiting journalists from various parts of the globe but all modalities were forgotten once the players, particularly Adriano, Figo and Van Nistelrooy, came on stage. In the prevailing excitement and hysteria, scribes were lucky to hear what they had to say. "This will be my last World Cup," said Figo, who will be one of the elder statesmen of World Cup 2006. "I cannot go on playing in every World Cup. But, there is still enough football in me to stop thinking about beyond the game," he told a scribe. Asked by Sportstar if he had any plan to visit India after his playing career, Figo said, "Yes, sure. I have heard that India has a lot of football potential. I cannot say when I will come but I certainly will," he said.

Figo also spoke of his national team's World Cup preparations. "We have possibly the best coach in Luis Felipe Scolari. And we have been doing well. I think it will be a different Portugal this time. Last time, we had problems with our preparatory camps being at a wrong place and things like that. In Germany, we should do well." With a glittering stud in his left ear, the soft spoken, ever smiling Adriano gives the impression of being shy. The light brown eyes look playful, though, as he fields questions with ease. A journalist wanted to know how be felt playing in Germany and pat came the reply, "We played the Confederations Cup and won. I am looking forward to doing well again". Another scribe wanted to know where he fitted in considering Brazil's abundance of talent in players like Ronaldo, Robinho, Ronaldinho and Kaka, "Leave that to coach Alberto Parreira. He will decide," quipped Adriano. A journalist from Europe wanted to know how the current Brazilian team would compare with those in the past, especially the 1970 team. "I think the current team is the best ever. We have so many young players, all very good. There are so many to choose from," said Adriano. "I am aware of the contributions Ronaldo and Ronaldinho have made. I hope one day I too can match them."

Nistelrooy was at his articulate best and at times even tossed the question back at the scribe with the same felicity with which he finds the back of the net. The Dutch striker spoke about Holland's chances to win its first ever World Cup. "It all depends on the ambitions of the players," he said. "We are in a tough group (Argentina, Ivory Coast and Serbia being the other teams) and we cannot afford to have a bad day. We have to win every match." Nistelrooy was asked to compare himself with his national manager Marco van Basten. "Well, both of us are strikers and we know to score goals," he said, sending peals of laughter around.

S. R. Suryanarayan