Named skipper of Indian Super League title holder ATK in his first year in the tournament, Irish world cupper and former Tottenham Hotspur striker Robbie Keane on Monday disclosed he had spoken to Italian football great Alessandro del Piero before taking up his latest assignment.
“When you sign for a new team, you obviously do homework. You speak to a few players who have played. I spoke to del Piero,” the 37-year-old Keane told mediapersons here.
Del Piero had turned out for Delhi Dyanmos in the first edition of the ISL in 2014.
“He told me about the league, and how much he enjoyed here. When you speak to these people, they can give you some ideas. But at the end of the day, you have to perform. I am enjoying. I am excited going forward with the team,” said Robbie Keane, who represented Ireland in the 2002 World Cup scoring three goals as the nation reached the last 16.
Keane did not agree that he might face problems adapting to the league whose standard was well below the level at which he played throughout his long career.
On the contrary, he was excited and impressed after the three and a half week of pre-season training in Dubai with the two-time ISL winners.
“After three and half weeks training in Dubai, I’m very, very impressed. There is a very good mix of European and Indian players in our team. Look, I’ve chosen to come here. I wanted to encounter a different experience. It does not matter where you play, as long as you don’t resent it,” he said.
“I am here to help the team retain the championship, through hard work by everybody in the team. Hopefully we can do that.”
Keane scored a total of 68 goals for the Republic of Ireland national team over an 18-year international career, making him the all-time record Irish scorer.
Keane said he would look to continuing his goal-scoring spree in India, though he has not set himself any target.
“Honestly I never really set myself any target for goals. Obviously I am a goal scorer, that’s what I do best. That’s the only thing I know. I have always looked to scoring many goals during my career. I will look to the exact same in India,” he said.
Keane conceded that the ISL was nowhere in his plans even a year earlier, but said the presence of former Tottenham Hotspur co-player Teddy Sheringhan as ATK head coach helped influence his decision.
“When you know somebody, that usually comes as a big factor. And obviously, Teddy was a huge factor. India was far from my mind last year.
“That’s because you think about these situations when you get s phone call and people ask you. When I got the phone call I gave it a serious consideration and now I am here. And I am excited. Looking forward to play, and score,” he said.
ATK co-owner Sanjiv Goenka announced at the media meet that Keane would captain the side. The Irishman had led his nation’s soccer team for back-to-back seasons from 2006 till his international retirement in 2016.
Keane discounted any possibility of the hot and humid weather coming as a party spoiler for him. To buttress his point, Keane referred to his five-year stint (2011-2016) with US Major League Soccer side LA Galaxy, based in Los Angeles.
“I have lived in Los Angeles for five years. It was very warm. For three weeks we have trained in Dubai, and have now come here. It is actually a lot warmer in Dubai, and there is more humidity,” he said.
“The last few days we have been here, the weather is fine. And of course all games will be played in the evening. I have played in over 100 degree (Fahrenheit) temperature at some stages in New York and Chicago. I am used to it.”