The former star striker also reflected on how he tried to help his teammates during his time at Kerala Blasters.
Young Indian footballers need to be prepared to take a big leap to the foreign leagues in the coming years, Dimitar Berbatov said in an exclusive interview with Khel Now. Berbatov, a two-time Premier League winner with Manchester United, represented Kerala Blasters for a season in the Indian Super League.
The interview was a part of the United We Play program – an initiative by Apollo Tyres and Manchester United. The second edition of the project aims to encourage young Indian football talent and give them a platform to showcase their skills. As part of the initiative, 3-5 footballers will be selected after two rounds of trials, to participate in training sessions at Old Trafford. Dimitar Berbatov recently launched the second edition of the program in India. He was joined by Manchester United Soccer Schools’ Head Mike Neary and Apollo Tyres Limited’s Regional Marketing, Sales and Service Vice-President Rajesh Dahiya.
“Our attempt is to give aspiring Indian footballers a global platform to showcase their talent with a club like Manchester United,” Dahiya said about the initiative. “It will surely be exciting to see the kind of football talent that comes to the fore this year.”
Both Apollo Tyres and Manchester United have always been advocates of grassroots football, said Neary. “The popularity of football in India is ever-increasing. It is encouraging to see the number of young players who are keen to learn more about the game,” he added.
Time at Kerala Blasters
Speaking about his time at Kerala Blasters, Dimitar Berbatov expressed that he would have liked to perform better for the side. The Bulgarian arrived to play in the ISL for the 2017/18 season, playing nine matches for the Blasters. “Obviously, I was 38 at the time, but I tried my best. I tried to talk to the young players about how they can develop further and help my team,” he reflected.
It’d make him happy to see an Indian player take the leap and join a European league, he implied. From what he had seen during his time at Blasters, he feels Indian football is still developing.
Indian footballers need to step out of comfort zone
In addition, the lethal goalscorer had words of wisdom for the young talents in Indian football. Indian footballers need to take every opportunity that they get outside of India, was a point that he emphasized the most.
“I also come from a small country where there were difficulties as a footballer,” he noted. “But, being more ambitious and putting a lot of work into training can make the difference. I have an impression that the players here are more connected to their families. You need to get out of your comfort zone, if you want to be successful.”
In his only season in the Indian Super League, Dimitar Berbatov scored just one goal, which came against the erstwhile ATK. He struggled with injuries and poor form during his stint in the ISL. The then 38-year-old’s poor relationship with head coach David James also didn’t help. However, throughout his career, Berbatov has been a prolific goalscorer. He scored 281 goals in his club career and also 48 goals in 78 matches for the Bulgarian national team.