Age can transform people,even football legends.
The dreadlocks and the shoulder-length perms are long gone. At 50,Ruud Gullit looks suave and sophisticated with his closely cropped hair.
If nobody cuts my hair then barber shops may go out of business, Gullit says jokingly.
Without a managerial position at the moment,after being shown the door by the Russian side Terek Grozny,the former Dutch stars time is mostly spent in promotional activities. It was one such commitment that has brought him to Kolkata his second visit to India in the last six months. Thelast time he was here in January,he raised funds for earthquake victims in Gangtok.
Last year,he grew back his moustache to support mens health charity Movember. This time in Kolkata,he is helping unearth talent.
Talking about international football,Gullit highlighted the issue of racism. Racism is not a football problem. Its a social problem. With the European economy facing crisis,it has become a culture of sorts to single out the minorities, he says.
There have been many instances of racial abuse in football off late. The black players in the Dutch national team had to endure monkey chants during the Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. FIFA and UEFA are trying to curb the menace. But they have to be more strict and vigilant, Gullit adds. He is also unhappy with English and Spanish clubs,who lure away local talent with big money.
There should be a gentlemans agreement between the countries and clubs to let young players play in their national tournaments only. At the moment there is a strong polarisation in football and if it continues then it will be dangerous for the game. Clubs have to set their books right.
Koevermans,the right choice
Indian football has a strong Dutch connection at present,in newly-appointed coach Wim Koevermans and technical director Robert Baan,and Gullit believes that the future of the game in India is in safe hands.
Indian football is in good hands and its a good opportunity for the Indians too. But youth development is most important,because its where it all starts. You have to develop infrastructure and provide opportunity to the youngsters to play football, Gullit points out.
Maradona is the best
Its not too long before hes drawn into the inevitable debate of whos the greatest footballer Pele or Maradona,Ronaldo or Messi.
For me,Maradona is the best player ever. Pele is of course among them. But Ive never seen Pele play. For me,Maradona was exceptional. Ive had the privilege to play against him and also with him. Now,we have new players now like Ronaldo and Messi. Every time you think there’s not going to be somebody better,it happens, he says. Gullit said the same holds good for teams too.
When the Brazilians played so well in the 70s,people said there’s never going to be a team better than this. But it has happened. For Spain,they deserve all these trophies. The good thing is they are playing attacking football. There will be a new team again who are going to be better than them, he says.