There was something noticeably different in the way Luis Figo had dressed as he walked on stage at a Mumbai hotel. The last time the Portuguese star was in India, he turned out for a friendly game in Goa. Yet this time around he was immaculately dressed in a crisp black business suit. Suave from head to toe, the 43-year-old had a different air about him. Previously he visited the country as the ambassador of Internazionale Milan, with whom he ended his 20-year-long playing career back in 2009. This time around, he came forward as President of a new venture, Premier Futsal.
Talking about the idea of the new prospect, the skipper of Portugal’s golden generation briefly entered a stage of nostalgia, recalling his early days of growing up in the Almada municipality of Lisbon. “I used to play futsal on the streets with my friends as a child. That’s where I developed my skills that helped me play,” he recalls. The pacy runs down flanks, each layered with flawless ball control skills that was peppered with flashy stepovers took the 2001 World Player of the Year to superstardom.
No to coaching
In India on a short tour to launch Premier Futsal, a new prospect of a league based on football’s five-a-side variant, the former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Inter player was introduced to the audience as President of the new tournament. The 10-day event, scheduled to be held in July follows the models established by the Indian Premier League, Hockey India League, Pro Kabaddi League, and 11-a-side football’s Indian Super League. The entity is designed to follow a caravan system for the eight franchises, which will have squads made up by 56 international names along with 40 scouted players from India.
Concurrent to his new role, Figo has banked more on an administrative role since retiring. In the past two years alone, the runner-up at Euro 2004 has set up 14 football academies in China, designating 40 Portuguese coaches to train children at the centres. Personally, however, he holds no intentions of getting into coaching himself like his former teammates at Real and Inter had – Roberto Carlos and Marco Materazzi respectively when they attended the ISL in the hopes of promoting their managerial careers. “I don’t have a license to coach,” he says flatly. “I’m not thinking about being a coach. Things do change from one day to another. But since I retired from professional activity, I didn’t want to follow that path.”
Yet like his former teammates, Figo has embarked on a new journey in India. It may not be through a marquee player or a manager’s role in the illustrious ISL, yet as the President of Premier Futsal, he has recognised an opening in the Indian setting. “India has a huge population and is a huge market. So there’s a big opportunity for sports events to reach great success here,” he concludes.