Former Manchester United star Nani is happy to be the A-League’s new poster boy if it means there is more attention placed on football in Australia.
The Portuguese legend and winner of four English Premier League titles has been quick to make an impact with Melbourne Victory, with his beautiful assist for a Chris Ikonomidis goal a highlight in his side’s 3-2 “Big Blue” first-round win over Sydney FC.
A healthy wet-weather crowd of 21.840 was at Allianz Stadium for the match, with Nani being mobbed by two enthusiastic youngsters after the game while doing a television interview.
While a security guard didn’t take too kindly to the two boys interrupting the interview, Nani loved their “passion”.
“It was nice to see the kids running on to the field,” he said.
“Security doesn’t like it but this is the passion of the game, so when you see that, we need to put ourselves in that position, because we have all been like that.
“One day we were kids and we wanted to do that as well. I hope those kids are happy.”
Nani is just as comfortable being recognised and acknowledged in the streets of Melbourne.
“I like the environment here. People say that there is not culture here about football, but it’s not true.
“Everywhere I go, everywhere I walk, people recognise me, people ask for a photo – it’s nice. More and more, I can feel they recognise me.
“The league starts, and (now) more and more people are paying attention to our games and the sport.”
While pleased with Victory’s first-up win, Nani expects more from himself and his teammates in Saturday night’s match against Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park.
“I’m very pleased with one assist for the team, but it’s not the most important thing. I’m not really very happy (just) because I did one assist – I want much more than that,” the 35-year-old attacking weapon said.
“I know I can work harder than what I did in the last game. My main target at the moment is to be able to play every single game and … be more connected with the team.
“It’s not easy; I just arrived at the club. The more you play, the more the players know you, (and) the more I know the players.
“We want to win our first game at home. We want to be able to compete every single week.”