Time with the man they called God
KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — Every football fan would love to see their icons in the flesh, and the upcoming Standard Chartered EPL Masters Football Malaysia Cup is the perfect opportunity to do just that. Held on April 22 at Stadium Malawati, Shah Alam, the tournament brings down British and Malaysian footballing legends like Paul Parker, John Barnes, Robbie Fowler, and Zainal Abidin Hassan to once again put on their club and country jerseys and play the game they love.
The one-day indoor tournament would see four teams compete — Liverpool Masters, Manchester United Masters, All Star Masters and Malaysian Masters — with each team featuring eight to 10 players from the past. Among the players early EPL followers would recognise are Frank LeBoef, Faustino Asprilla, and Steve McManaman, while those who followed the Malaysian football scene would be familiar with the likes of Khan Hun Meng, K Gunalan, and K Sanbagamaran.
The Malaysian Insider had the opportunity to have an exclusive e-mail interview with Robbie Fowler (picture), the legendary Liverpool striker the Kop once called “God”, and got his opinion on his career thus far, Liverpool’s race with rivals Everton, and what he loves about football in the Asian region.
For more information and ticketing on the Standard Chartered EPL Masters Football Malaysia Cup, visit http://www.footballfocusasia.com (http://www.footballfocusasia.com/) or their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Football-Focus-Asia/111692082231220).
Leading up to the Masters Football Malaysia Cup, how have you been keeping fit now that you’ve stopped playing professional football?
I always keep myself relatively fit but I have been keeping my options open with regards to playing professionally, so that requires keeping fit. I think all the lads dust off their running shoes a few weeks before Masters Football, I played for the first time in Malaysia last year and although the games are short they are intensive. To be honest I was disappointed with Liverpool’s performance at Masters last year. This year our team looks stronger than 2011, so I hope we get a better result.
Are you still weighing options to continue playing football professionally, as recent news regarding Blackpool suggests, or is it a coaching role for you next?
I think I’ll always keep my options open when it comes to playing football, I’ve trained with several clubs in the UK recently and even looked at the new league in India. When it comes to India though, I think there needs to be a bit more development in the sport before they’re ready for the size of league they were planning. I know at one point I’m going to have to progress in football, this may be coaching, may be managing, only time will tell.
You’ve travelled the world quite a bit over the past few years, staying in Australia and Thailand for a while — what is it about this part of the world that managed to draw you away from England?
Well, anyone who has been to Australia knows what a great place it is. I really enjoyed the lifestyle there and so do my girls, the climate is great (any Brit will tell you that), the progression to Thailand from Australia was easier than it probably would have been if I had moved straight from the UK.
Having spent some time in the A-League, what’s your take on the growth of football there?
The Australians are a naturally sporty people and football or “soccer” is definitely growing in popularity. I wouldn’t say the talent pool is untapped though, you have players like Kewell and Cahill who have been playing in Merseyside for years and I think this will continue to grow along with the sports popularity.
What about football in the Southeast Asian region — in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand especially? What do you think can be improved for the quality in this region to get better?
There is massive talent in Asia. However there are also a lot of hindrances on bringing Asian players to the UK, visas being a major factor. When it comes to improving the quality of football in the region, you have to look at player nutrition. Nutrition plays such a major role in player development and its definitely something that isn’t given enough consideration in many SEA leagues, this starts with the club but also requires player discipline.
Do you think you could ever be away from the game — open a pub somewhere and just retire to a nice, football-free life?
Liverpool FC played such a big part in my life, I will always have a connection to the club and to football. Whether it’s coaching, managing or media, football will always be a part of my life. I’ve also got a few more years of Masters football left in me and seeing all the lads again keeps you coming back for more.
You were an Everton fan growing up — so what’s your family like when it comes to the Red/Blue divide?
I was when I was younger, but when you play for a club like Liverpool for so long and experience all the ups and downs you can’t help but become a fan. There is always good banter in our family though, most families back home have a decent mix of red and blue.
Finally, where do you see Liverpool ending up in the league standings this year — above or below Everton? Could we see you back in a red shirt soon?
You will definitely see me in a red shirt again, at Masters Football Malaysia Cup this weekend. As for the premier league, I wouldn’t like to put my neck out and say either way, it’s so close it could go either way.