World Cup star Diego Forlan attracts fans in Calcutta

By Inderpreet Sahota
BBC Asian Network

Image caption,
Forlan is the latest in a long line of football players to visit Calcutta

Uruguayan football star Diego Forlan, who was named best player in the 2010 World Cup, has attracted huge crowds in the Indian city of Calcutta.

The 31-year-old, who scored five goals in the tournament in South Africa, is taking part in a football talent hunt.

Many of the participants come from underprivileged backgrounds.

"I've had the opportunity to see them playing, and I'm surprised how organised the young players are. You can see real talent," Forlan said.

'Delighted and honoured'

The capital of the state of West Bengal is one of the few football-crazy cities in India, where the game often plays second-fiddle to cricket in people's affections.

Image caption,
The star was able to take a little time off from football while in the city

The level of interest in the sport could be seen by the large number of fans who greeted Forlan on his arrival.

"I feel delighted and honoured, it's thrilling that Forlan is here among us," said one supporter.

The player said he was delighted to be in India and he expected Indian football to "grow over the next few years" with players in England, Spain and Italy.

"I hope we can see Indian players playing in great leagues in the future," he told the BBC Asian Network's Bengali show.

While in the city, the Atletico Madrid forward visited the headquarters of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity.

Forlan is a hero in his home country and won many admirers around the world for his performances in the World Cup.

Two-time World Cup champions Uruguay reached their first semi-final in four decades in South Africa.

When asked about the 2010 World Cup, he said: "My best goal was the one I scored against Germany."

He joins a host of football stars who have visited Calcutta over the last three years including Lothar Matthaus, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Diego Maradona, Branco, Romario, Oliver Kahn, Gerd Muller, Mark van Bommel and Ze Roberto.

In 2008, German football team Bayern Munich became one of the first major European clubs to play in India at a Calcutta match.

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