“Diego, Diego! Here, chin up and left,” as the photographers called his name out, a bubble formed in the fans’ hearts. After all, Diego Forlan shares his first name with football legend Diego Maradona and he almost uprooted Germany’s ego in the FIFA World Cup 2010. On top of that, Indians have had a soft corner for Manchester United too — where he dribbled for two years (2002-2004). This season, he is the marquee player for Mumbai City FC in the Indian Super League (ISL).

But Forlan — who won the Golden Ball in 2010 and scored 36 goals in 112 appearances for Uruguay — surprised every football enthusiast when talking about the development of Indian football. The 37-year-old, instead of asking Indians to go to Latin America or Europe, suggested that they should take a cue out of Japan.

“They have the skills, one should learn development from them. Japan learnt that from Europe and applied that in their game or else, they wouldn’t have qualified for five World Cups,” said Forlan, who played for Cerezo Osaka in J League for a year.

He cited examples of spotting several Japanese youngsters traveling across the world just to catch senior players in action for international clubs.

“They always want to learn and acquire skills. This quality is driving them towards success,” added Forlan, who will share the dressing room with star Indian player Sunil Chhetri.

However, the Uruguayan national is aware of the lackluster performance of India at the international level. He called for better work ethics coupled with diligence and self-belief.

“You need to improve the work culture, which will perk up infrastructure,” he said, adding how he still works on fitness at this age.

He apparently rejected offers from England, Spain and Italy to play in ISL. “India is different. I would probably play in England if they have an emergency and need a player on load. If players are injured, I would like to fill in, score a few goals and then return as and when they get back,” reasoned Forlan.

After much silence, issues with foreign players and the respective coaches, Mumbai City FC finally have a revamped look. They have a new coach in Alexandre Guimaraes and a new ground (Andheri Sports Complex). Forlan’s inclusion is an added sheen.

“It will be an interesting league and I look forward to play many games in a short time,” adds Forlan, who is keen to carry on with the beautiful game till the body allows.

“People say football career lasts for 15 years or so. I have been playing professionally for 20 years and I will not stop,” he signed off.