When Freddie Ljungberg sat beside me

Indian footballer Syed Rahim Nabi recalls the first season of the starry ISL that introduced him to Ljungberg and Nicolas Anelka.

I asked Freddie if he would be interested in spending more time in India, beyond the ISL, to educate us and look at the grassroots. He told me, “Whenever you think you need me, please call me."   -  AFP

When the Indian Super League was about to start in 2014, it created a lot of buzz and excitement. It was a one-of-a-kind tournament in India where international players were being flown down. To see big players coming and sharing ideas was special.

In the Mumbai City FC camp — co-owned by Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor — I realised the dreamy side of the tournament when Sweden and Arsenal legend Freddie Ljungberg came and sat beside me (in the team bus) while we were going for training. I have fond memories of that first conversation. Later, we started hanging out more and even during the endorsement shoots, he would sit with me.

I recall telling him the importance of his presence in the Indian football setup. I asked him if he would be interested in spending more time in India, beyond the ISL, to educate us and look at the grassroots. Freddie told me, “Whenever you think you need me, please call me.”

French star Nicolas Anelka is another guy I connected to. He loved Indian dance. We had a lot of fun together in Mumbai.

When I signed up with ATK, I became close to Helder Postiga, too. The league has come a long way from those days. It is shaping well.

As told to Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya.