ROHAN RICKETTS: Cows in the road and Twitter row meant my Indian adventure ended early… but I went back in time to live the dream in South America
08:20 GMT, 18 February 2013
14:06 GMT, 18 February 2013
Rohan Ricketts started his football career playing for Arsenal and was part of the hugely successful side that won the FA Youth Cup in 2000 and 2001. But a year later he made the move that only four players before him had and crossed the north London divide to join Tottenham. After 30 appearances for the White Hart Lane club, Ricketts began his football journey playing for Wolves, Coventry, QPR, Barnsley before he opted to move abroad and to join MLS side Toronto FC. Since then he has played in Hungary, Moldova, Germany, Ireland and India. He is now playing in South America, in Ecuador. Before you read his first Footballers' Football Column, watch his video.
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I’ve often been called a ‘journeyman’ in my football career and in late 2012 I made my biggest journey to date when I signed for Dempo SC in Goa, India. It doesn’t sound like the most obvious move to make but, as they say, football is a funny old game.
Last summer I was really keen to return to the UK, after a stint at Shamrock Rovers in Ireland so I returned to London to see what I could find.
But it is such a tough market and there were so many players looking for a club. There’s a fine balance between holding your nerve and waiting to find a club or signing somewhere to ensure financial security for your family.
Getting to know the locals: Ricketts enjoyed his short spell in India, despite his issues on the pitch
There were many players who were still looking for a club even after the season started. It’s easy to assume that players are being choosy about which club they sign for and ruling out lower league clubs but for me that wasn’t the case.
I love playing football, it’s what I was born to do. I may have been nearing 30 but I had no plans to give it up just yet.
After much deliberation with my family and friends, I made the decision to sign for Dempo SC. India isn’t really known for its football, I knew it would be different to Europe but the challenge of living in another country and helping them to build up the reputation of football really appealed to me.
I did it before when I signed for Toronto FC in MLS and I found it really rewarding to help educate a new generation about the sport.
First move abroad: Ricketts moved to MLS and joined Toronto
I was told how serious Dempo SC were about growing football in India and I was excited to join them so I signed until May 2013.
certainly was a world away from London. It gets so hot there that we
were doing all our training sessions and practice matches early in the
morning before it got too unbearable.
It was fascinating to live in such a different culture, I was late for training on a couple of occasions due to cows in the road which was certainly something I had not experienced before and was I confronted with severe poverty in certain areas, which was difficult to see.
On the pitch, it was great to taste victory on the first day of the season after such a long break away, but it really was a different game to the one I am used to. It was the tactics that were lacking, rather than the players' skill level, so I was confident we would improve as the team gelled.
Luck of the Irish: Ricketts enjoyed his spell with Shamrock Rovers and helped them win the Irish league
Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to see if that would be the case. I had joined the team under the impression that they wanted me to play as I do and that they wanted to develop a passing style.
However the coach soon made it clear that he was expecting me to adapt to the way they played. It didn’t help that he was trying to play me as a striker rather than an attacking central midfielder.
I had some discussions with him about this in the early days and he did start to play me in the
Young stars: Rohan Ricketts was part of the Arsenal Youth team that included Steve Sidwell, Moritz Volz, Jermaine Pennant and Jay Bothroyd
Crossing the divide: Ricketts moved to Spurs after starting his career in the Arsenal youth team
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I mentioned everything that was happening on my Twitter account, something the coach was not happy about. When the Indian press asked him about the things I was saying he denied it and said that I had misunderstood.
I knew that I hadn’t, although I do recognise that talking about it in 140 characters on Twitter was perhaps not the best forum. I was just frustrated because I wanted the team to do well.
As a result of my comments I was put on the bench for the next four games, in both the Goa and
The team did not do as well as we had been doing and it was really hard to sit and watch, but I remained professional and trained hard. It was a big plus to have moral support from a lot of the key members of the squad. This is something that can be rare being a player in a foreign country.
Eventually after keeping my focus and positive spirit, I was re-instated in the starting XI against Salgoacar FC. The game was tough but we ended up winning 2-1, and I scored my first I League goal and then set up the winnner.
After the game the coaches and players were in a good mood and we had gone two points clear at the top of the table. I had hoped that was the turning point for me but unfortunately things didn’t improve with the head coach.
It was a really uncomfortable situation with him and again I spoke out about the difficulties I was having on Twitter. After my first tweets I had spoken with the President of the club, who is a great guy, and he was supportive but obviously I understood that he needed to run the club successfully and for that he needs a united team.
I wasn’t trying to unsettle things with my later tweets but I couldn’t stay silent.
After further discussions with the President it became clear that my position at the club was untenable.
I can’t talk about everything that happened there but suffice to say that I have the utmost respect for the President and my team mates at Dempo SC along with the many fans who I met while I was there. I wish them every success this season.
Fortunately for me, when I knew that I was leaving Dempo, I was able to sign very quickly for a new club – 10 hours back in time at Deportivo Quevedo in Ecuador.
Playing in South America has always been a dream of mine so when my agent told me about this opportunity, I jumped at the chance.
A new excuse for being late: Ricketts was later for training due to cows in the road (file picture)
Fans' favourite: Ricketts is surrounded by fans as he leaves training
I have been here for a month now and am settling in well. My team-mates have been very welcoming and I have joined in pre-season, which is refreshing after my last couple of moves where I have joined mid-way through and struggled to get to the same fitness level.
We played our first game of the season at the end of January against the Champions and biggest club in Ecuador Barcelona SC. Before the game I could feel the hype surrounding the game and for me it felt like I was involved in a Premier League fixture back home against Manchester United.
Fans all over our city, Quevedo, were stopping me daily to let me know how big the game was for them.
Talk about pressure on your first game.
This pressure was not new to me but I could still feel the anticipation and excitement all around. I'm grateful to be part of such moments. This is no doubt the stuff of dreams for others but for me it is reality.
I knew I was starting in the game a week before, so I did not have the annoying waiting game surrounding team selection.
On the move: Ricketts left India to move to Deportivo Quevedo in Ecuador
Once the game day arrived and we got to the stadium and the energy around the ground was almost tangible. Salsa music was playing and the people were chanting an hour ahead of
I just tried to remain cool as I did not want to lose energy. Good thing I did because the game turned out to be a real scrap due to the bad weather which turned the pitch into a mud bath.
I was hoping to get on the ball and play our passing game, but it was not to be for either side.
Follow Rohan on Twitter: @RohanRicketts
It was all about winning the second ball and playing on the counter attack. We adapted really well to the conditions and took the lead early on but the referee seemed to have his own agenda, in the second half when he gave Barcelona as penalty which was never a penalty and then didn't give us a penalty for a blatant handball in their box.
I won't go too much into the incident as I may get myself in trouble, but the game ended 1-1. A good point for us against the champions and a good team performance.
I was relatively pleased with my performance but I know the conditions limited my chances of being more active in dangerous areas.
I'm adapting quickly and learning the lingo, which will only speed up the settling in process and help me get the most out of my latest football adventure.