Arsenal legend Freddie Ljungberg explains decision to play in Indian Super League

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Former Arsenal and West Ham United winger Freddie Ljungberg says that he wants to promote football in India.

Freddie Ljungberg has decided to come out of retirement two years after quitting football.

The former Arsenal winger will feature in the Indian Super League that will run for three months starting in September.

The ex-Sweden international has signed as a marquee player with an unnamed franchise and is preparing himself for what promises to be an entertaining time in India.

Ljungberg joined Arsenal from Halmstads BK in 1998 and was on the books of the North London club until 2007.

During his nine years with the Gunners, Ljungberg won the Premier League twice and the FA Cup three times. The 37-year-old was part of Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ and is without doubt a club legend.

Ljungberg’s final years as a player did not go that well, and after spells at West Ham United, Seattle Sounders, Chicago Fire, Celtic and Shimizu S-Pulse, he hung up his boots in 2012, only to be convinced to come back onto the pitch later this year.

So after two years why has Ljungberg decided to play professionally again, and that too in the Indian Super League?

‘For me there wasn't one key element but a lot of different factors’, he told The Times of India. ‘Of course (there was) the opportunity to see your beautiful country, but mainly to help promote the game’.

It is indeed a noble cause for which Ljungberg has decided to put his boots back on, but one has to ask whether the ISL, which is similar to Indian Premier League (a Twenty20 cricket tournament), can actually make football bigger than what it is in India at the moment.

Cricket may well be the number one sport in India, but there is no dearth of enthusiasm for football, especially among the youngsters and young adults.

European football, especially the Premier League, the Champions League and La Liga, is massive in a nation with a population of over 1.2 billion people – the problem is that Indian (or local) football is not enticing enough for youngsters to take up the sport professionally.

Whether Ljungberg and other former Premier League stars can change that in a matter of three months is doubtful.

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