The NEROCA midfielder spoke about his experience in the I-League and his love for Indian football in a candid chat with Khel Now..

NEROCA FC have been one of the real surprise packages in Indian football this season and versatile midfielder Aryn Williams has been a key cog in their sturdy showcase throughout the season. The Australian, who has traits of Indian origin has enjoyed a great first season in the I-League and has put in some solid performances for Gift Raikhan’s men this season.

Williams has created a great partnership with Fabien Vorbe with the two forming one of the most solid midfielders in the top flight and Aryn’s versatility has been used well by his new club. While the midfielder won’t be available for NEROCA’s final game away to East Bengal on Thursday, he remains a fantastic buy for them and has played a big part in their stunning display this season. Khel Now’s Kolkata correspondent Uttiyo Sarkar had the opportunity to sit down with Aryn for a candid chat and the midfielder had some interesting things to say about life in India and his future.

Aryn might only have been at NEROCA for a few months now, but he seems happy with his venture so far and while speaking about his journey so far with the Orange Army, he said, “It’s been really enjoyable. My partner helped me adjust to the conditions in India and I think the transition from Australia to India has been pretty easy. Fabien Vorbe, Rennedy Singh and Gourmangi Singh were among those who really looked after me and made it a very comfortable journey for me.”

The midfielder has made 16 appearances in the I-League  and been really consistent, which has made for some good memories. Talking about his best memories so far, he said, “My best moment was scoring the winner against Churchill(Brothers). The crowd wasn’t massive, but the noise they made was amazing. A lot of fans contacted me personally and spoke about how much they loved me. Everyone’s been very welcoming to me at and for me, the entire season as a whole has been a big, happy memory.”

Williams has boosted the gameplay at NEROCA FC

The I-League isn’t the easiest of competitions to adapt to for a new foreign player and Williams also had to face a few difficulties in his first season. He elaborated on this and said, “The travelling especially is very, very difficult. I think maybe NEROCA need to work on their organization a bit and it is their first season in the I-League that some travel problems arose. I think moving from one city to another, catching flights and trains on a regular basis was exhausting particularly, but apart from that, I couldn’t be happier with our season.”

Williams has played in England and Australia prior to coming to India and when comparing the infrastructure in Indian football with that of those two countries, he said, “I think with cricket being the main sport in India, it makes their football infrastructure suffer a bit. But, now with the ISL coming on, the infrastructure has been growing fantastically and the U-17 World Cup proved how impressive the Infrastructure in Indian football is right now.”

He further added: “I think comparing with England would be unfair because of the funding they get in football due to them being the top league in the world. Bu, in comparison to the A-League, India is quite close, to be honest. Maybe, there’s a bit of catching up to do with the facilities, but otherwise, I don’t think India is that far away.”

Aryn’s mother is from India, which makes him a player of Indian origin and he is someone whose intent on staying in the country and playing for the Blue Tigers. Talking about that, he said, “Hopefully if my Indian passport situation is solved soon, I hope to be in India for the next 10-15 years and I’d love to be here and to see it grow in the future.”

Williams also seems to be really impressed by the other newcomers in Indian Arrows and speaking about them, he said, “They are a great bunch of boys. You can see how well they get along with each other. You can have a whole team of Cristiano Ronaldos, but if they don’t get along with each other, it won’t work. Luis Matos has done a fantastic job and I think the boys are very lucky to be learning from him. If I was in their shoes, I would listen and learn from him every single day.”

The midfielder might be missing the final game against East Bengal due to suspension, but he thinks his team is ready for the task and spoke about their preparations for the big match, “I think playing so many games together and then getting 15 days off, you think the season’s finished! I think the gap is a bit difficult, but the boys have kept their heads focused. They know what’s at stake as we can finish 4th by losing, but if we win, we could win the league! We need to grasp the opportunity and to treat it as a final.”

Aryn Williams scored against Churchill Brothers

Aryn has definitely turned heheads afteris brilliant showcase this season and could be signed by a “bigger” club next campaign. When talking about his thoughts on signing a lucrative offer with another club, he said, “Everyone wants some security. I signed a 3-year deal in the A-League as that gave me security. I just hope every team in India feels that I’m worthy of a long-term contract. If someone was to offer a lucrative contract, it’s something I’d look into. If an ISL club was to offer me a 10-year contract, I’d take it!”

Nobody thought that NEROCA would perform so well in the I-League and Williams spoke about whether the tag of “underdogs” helped their cause. “We’ve definitely proved a lot of people wrong. I was glad to have the underdogs badge. When you have that, it only makes the victory sweeter. When we drew 1-1 against East Bengal at home and when we went on a 9-game unbeaten streak, everyone was shocked by that. The underdog’s badge is great because you aren’t expected to win and can catch many by surprise.”

There is a chance of a merger between the ISL and I-League next season, but if that wasn’t to go through, Aryn seems to have his eyes set on playing at the top. “I’d definitely prefer at the top division league. In FIFA’s standings, the I-League is the top division. I think the ISL is better because of their players. But, the I-League is much tougher competitively.”

Although an Australian citizen, Williams has Indian ancestry

Aryn has been associated with Indian football for around six months now and when asked about his thoughts on it, he said, “I really enjoy it. It’s very competitive and we get football almost every night. It’s quite well televised because of Star Sports’ great broadcasting. I can watch the games back on Hotstar and figure out what mistakes I made. That is something which has really helped me and some other places we don’t get that”.

When comparing Indian ootball scene with that in Australia, he said, “I think the I-League and ISL are much more competitive than the A-League. The A-League is similar to the ISL and there’s no promotion and relegation. Personally, the money in India is better than the A-League. The local players in India get more money than what the Australians get in the A-League.”

Sony Norde was troubled by Williams when Mohun Began hosted NEROCA

Manager Gift Raikhan is someone who is really close to this NEROCA unit and gets a lot of praise from players. Aryn Williams is no different to that as he admires his coach and spoke about him by saying, “I’ve enjoyed working under him. He’s played in India his whole life so he knows the ins and outs of the I-League. He’s been lucky that the team has gelled so well. Maybe, with an assistant coach, he’d have done even better, but he’s been quite fantastic for us.”

In terms of football in Asia, India still has a long way to go. But, Williams is optimistic about the country’s chances and when asked about how they can match up against Australia and other continental giants, he said, “I still think India has a long way to go, but they’re definitely on the right track. With the U-17 World Cup being a success, I think football has never been bigger.”

He added: “If you look at China, they’ve grown massively in such a short space of time. Obviously, they have a lot of money, but they’ve grown a lot and players in their prime are coming to play for them. I think India needs to take inspiration from how amazingly the J-League and the South Korean league has grown over the years.”

Williams has proved his mettle in the I-league

 Williams has also been someone whose dreamt of playing in India ever since his childhood and speaking about what gave him the inspiration for that, he said, “My grandad actually used to play against Mohun Bagan when he played for the West Indian Football Association. He played and scored the winner against them in front of 120,000 spectators. I’ve known about Indian football all my life through my grandad and I’m fulfilling his wishes by playing in India. I want to follow in his footsteps and become a bigger star in India.”

Williams wants to continue playing in India and also aspires to play for the national team. When asked about his thoughts on staying in India, he said, “My short term goal is getting my Indian passport. My agent is working hard to get my Indian passport. My goal is to get my Indian passport and play for India in the AFC Asian Cup. If you’d tell me to swap my Australian passport with an Indian one, I’d do it in an instance right now!”

There’s a real chance of a merger happening this year in Indian football and speaking about whether he wants that to happen, Williams gave a diplomatic answer and said, “Yes and no. I think the AFC would want a proper structure in Indian league football. But, whether the AIFF want it is another thing. I think there are many teams in the I-League who can comfortably play in the ISL.”

He further added, “It’s something they need to look into. When you put more on the line, it’s more exciting for the fans. The ISL at the moment is getting a bit stale because there’s no promotion or relegation. I think if the merger happens and if Mohun Bagan faces off against ATK, that’ll make for a huge match. Or if NorthEast United plays against NEROCA, it’ll be a great derby. I think adding these new things will help Indian football.”

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Williams was also full of praise for ISL leaders Bengaluru FC and had some kind words for them, saying, “I spoke to Erik (Partaluu) a bit and he said the way the team is run, from the backroom staff to the fan-base is absolutely fantastic. I think other teams also need to learn from their tempo and how they’re running the club as Bengaluru are now making money from external sources and doing something no other club has done.”

Signing off, Williams praised the AIFF for organizing the inaugural Super Cup this season and said, “The AIFF are trying to do something with the Super Cup which is great to see. The broadcasting of the ISL and the I-League this season has been great and I think that’ll be important to make the Super Cup an exciting and great watch this season.”