AdminAdmin 240 Points
edited August 2011 in East Bengal
Tolgay Ozbey is loving life in the I-League and says he'd prefer to stay in India for now rather than return to the A-League.

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  • AdminAdmin 240 Points
    Ozbey, who is one of the first Australian footballers to ply their trade in India's young and developing I-League, made the lucrative move to Kolkata-based East Bengal last August and has been a star this campaign scoring nine goals in 13 appearances.

    The striker sealed his switch to India after winning the 2010 NSW Player of the Year following a season where he scored 25 goals for Grand Final winners Blacktown City.

    And the 24-year-old's prolific goalscoring form in India has helped East Bengal start the season brilliantly, sitting top of the table at the halfway mark before last weekend's shock 1-0 loss at OGNC FC.

    Ozbey, who played a handful of A-League games for the Sky Blues and Jets in 2006 and 2007, told he was enjoying the fruits of a healthy contract at East Bengal and said he's loving life in India.

    "I've been here just over five months, it doesn't feel like it's been that long, even though I'd love to head home for a quick holiday," he said.

    Ozbey revealed he would get a quick 10-day break in Australia in mid-March after East Bengal face Indonesian outfit Persipura Jayapura in the AFC Cup but said he wasn't entertaining thoughts of an A-League return anytime soon.

    "If I was to come back to the A-League what are they going to give me? $90,000 or $100,000 maximum. Take your $30,000 off tax, pay your rent and then you've got the cost of living in Australia which is very expensive," he said.

    "In India, I don't pay tax (the club do), I don't pay my rent (the club do) and it is so cheap to live here. I live better here than what I do in Australia.

    "I've got my cable TV, you go to training everyday, there's a lot of travel involved, it's the best life. The weeks just fly by.

    "There's great shopping centres around. The nightlife is decent. Obviously you've got your bad areas, absolute slums, but we don't go to those places. It's like any other place.

    "So at the moment not the A-League but I've also got a clause in my contract that in the transfer window in July I can move, pretty much for free.

    "If a good opportunity came up somewhere I'd look at it, definitely. Even though I like it here in India, I'm not going to be here forever."

    Another attraction for Ozbey is East Bengal's upcoming AFC Cup campaign which will see them face Hong Kong outfit South China who boast the services of ex-Manchester United midfielder Nicky Butt and former Chelsea striker Mateja Kezman.

    "Playing against players like Nicky Butt and Kezman, these guys have played in the Premier League, so I'm really, really looking forward to it," he said.

    Ozbey also offered some interesting insights into the current state of Indian football following their recent participation at the 2011 Asian Cup where they faced Australia - when the Socceroos easily prevailed 4-0 - before bowing out without a point with three losses in Group C.

    "People were looking forward to the Asian Cup for a long time, they were looking forward to playing world-class teams like Australia and Korea," he said.

    "They weren't expecting to win any games, but keeping respectable scores was what they wanted. There was good feedback and bad feedback from their results. Even though Australia did thump India, it is just their local team. What can you expect against world-class players like Tim Cahill?

    "There's no foreigners in the national team, they're all Indian-based boys, so they've done really well if you ask me."

    Ozbey added: "There's talk now of trying to get foreign players to get citizenship to play for the national team to strengthen it more and more.

    "It was good for the country that they qualified for the Asian Cup. It shows they are not just cricketers. Hopefully in the near future it can improve more and more. The main problem with Indian football is infrastructure. It's not too bad in the I-League, but for junior development it's very, very poor."

    Ozbey revealed there was a massive appetite for football in cricket-mad India, particularly in East Bengal's home city of Kolkata, which boasts a population of over 15 million.

    Kolkata is also home to East Bengal's rivals Mohun Bagan, who are one the most successful clubs in India.

    "There's two major states for football, Goa and Kolkata. Kolkata football is massive," Ozbey said.

    "At the moment every home game we're getting a minimum of 35,000 to 40,000. Mohun Bagan, they are about sixth at the moment, and they're getting about 10,000 to 15,000 every match as well.

    "East Bengal has got the biggest supporter base in South Asia. There's about 40 million in India who go for East Bengal."

    Both clubs play at Salt Lake Stadium which is the second largest football stadium in the world with a capacity of 120,000 and Ozbey revealed he was amazed to see over 100,000 fans pack out the venue for the recent Kolkata derby which ended in a 1-1 draw.

    Ozbey, who admits his subcontinental journey is an unbelievable life experience, said the adulation he received in India was overwhelming, adding he couldn't walk down the street without getting swamped by fans.

    "There's so much poverty here, it's a very, very poor country. So when they see footballers, cricketers, actors or actresses it just makes their day," he said.

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