Mumbai City FC Last Destination Super League in India
Manuel Friedrich is an adventurer. At 34 he rushed headlong into top international Football once again. That is not absolutely unusual. But the professional was almost five months without a club and kept himself fit only as part of the regional league team RW Oberhausen. In November 2013 followed the transfer to Borussia Dortmund. National championship, Champions League, defending in front of an audience of 80,000. But he had planned an adventure of a different kind altogether. This he gets to realize now. In probably the most exotic league in the world.
He intentionally let his contract with Bayer Leverkusen expire in summer 2013, in order to make his dream possible: a transfer to Asia. But Friedrich could not find any club. And finally after a call from his former coach Jürgen Klopp who asked him to help out as there had been many injuries in Dortmund, it was clear that the transfer to Far East was not going to happen.
A few days ago Friedrich signed a contract for a season with Mumbai City FC, which plays in the Indian Super League founded in October 2013. Not Qatar, not China, not Australia or the USA – India is the new destination for the older stars who have disappeared from the screen. Here they spread the last glamour of former days – before they take off their shoes for good.
Eight teams were put together with clear guidelines per Drafting system following the model of North American professional Basketball league NBA. Apart from one so-called Marquee-player or main performer like David Trezeguet, Robert Pirès or Fredrik Ljungberg who had fought in at least one European tournament, a team consists of 14 native players and 7 other foreign professionals.
Manuel Friedrich is one of them. His trainer is the Dutch Ruud Gullit. “I am very excited to be part of the team in Mumbai and will give my best”, said the 34-year old player who comes across as rather young compared to other older stars. Players like Italian icon Alessandro Del Piero (39), Spanish World and Europe champion Joan Capdevilla (36), French Mikael Silvestre (37) and his compatriot David Trezeguet (36), who had shot the Golden Goal against Italy (2:1) in the EURO-Finale 2000, are all 36 years or above.
Former English National Goalkeeper David James, who has been rather prone to mishaps, has, in fact, two functions to perform. At 44, he is also the coach of a team. One of his coach colleagues is the Brazilian football legend Zico. And also a former player from Borussia Mönchengladbach ended up in Super League: the Norwegian Morten Skoubo.
In India, where Cricket is the most popular sport, football can be pulled into the focus of the populace of 1.2 Billion only through attractive, well-known names. The first attempt, however, already failed two years ago, as a similar project with the name ‘Premier League Soccer’ could not be implemented. Five clubs wooed famous players like Fabio Cannavaro, Hernan Crespo, Jay-Jay Okocha, Juan Pablo Sorin or Robbie Fowler to play in India. For a couple of games they could have made enormous money. But the league never took off because of financial reasons.
For Manuel Friedrich, money is not the first priority. He has another logic. “It is just that in the Bundesliga business I have experienced nearly everything that one can experience. Now it must be a new experience which includes an unknown language and culture – and that’s possible only in such countries”, he explains. Dortmund Trainer Klopp who would have employed the 1.89 Meter tall defender perhaps for one more year, commented smugly: “For me, the question yet remains to be answered as to why he wants to play in the future with people who barely reach his hip-bone.”
At the level of sports it´s certainly not the greatest challenge for the former National player. But the ex-Bundesliga professional has another reason in consideration: “For me, it’s tempting to come to a country where I can’t read anything, no one speaks English and I still have to communicate somehow.” He sees it as sheer adventure. Not for nothing is his Mantra: “Easy things can be done by anyone.”