Throughout his long and varied playing career, never could former France international Vikash Dhorasoo have been described as your typical footballer. As fans of Le Havre, Lyon, Bordeaux, AC Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Livorno can all attest, the diminutive midfield schemer had the ability to pick holes in the tightest of defences, particularly when playing at his free-spirited best.
Now 35 years of age, the man whose 18 senior caps for Les Bleus took in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ has taken his life in a new direction since hanging up his boots in January last year. A French national, but with roots in both Mauritius and India, Dhorasoo's latest project involves promoting football in the latter nation - the main reason for his visit to the Home of FIFA in Zurich on Wednesday 4 February. There, he made time for a full and frank interview with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Vikash, what projects are you involved in at the moment?
Vikash Dhorasoo: I've got a footballing project in India on the go. We felt there was a desire from the world of football and FIFA in particular to turn its focus towards this country. So I wanted to meet the people here (in Zurich) to see how we can work together on this project. This is because it seems to me that if there were ever an institution that was perfectly suited to this idea, that's FIFA.
Why did you choose India in particular?
I was "labelled" as the first player with Indian blood to take part in a World Cup. Even though I didn't play much, France reached the Final and I became more famous. And that coincided with a period during which Indians were focusing more on the West and on football. On coming here to FIFA, I've been delighted to see how FIFA's perspective on football in India corresponds with my own vision of things. I have the impression that in every country in which FIFA chooses to start up a project, there is also a social component to it, and I like that.
That aside, what else keeps you busy on a daily basis?
I'm a Paris town council representative. I work in the social domain and am not directly involved in football. That said, whenever I arrive in a neighbourhood, people start talking to me about football and PSG straight away. It's an excellent way of creating a bond and getting those kids to open up. They might say more to me than they would to other people, so I can then pass on the information to the mayor and we can take things forward.
What do you look back on in your career?
I had some great experiences. The 2006 World Cup especially was the cherry on my cake - I was fortunate enough to have been chosen among the best players in my country. At that competition, despite the clearly "nationalistic" atmosphere, I could appreciate the sense of brotherhood and the friendly exchanges. That's something I agree with.
What has given you the greatest sense of satisfaction?
I've met fantastic people everywhere. I'm also satisfied to have finished my career in Paris. But I've also seen how youngsters' attitudes have changed. Twenty years ago I just wanted to play for playing's sake, without thinking I'd end up earning a big salary. Nowadays I speak to lads who just want to earn loads of money, without really knowing if they want to play football or not. I'd like to turn that trend around. It'll be difficult, it'll need a lot of education and commitment in order to change people's mindsets. Football has a unique power to unify people, and it must use that to increase solidarity.
Were you ever the victim of racism during your playing days?
I was asked to become a patron of (the organisation) "Paris Football Gay", which battles against homophobia, and I accepted because it was a way of fighting against all forms of discrimination. I've been subject to racism in my daily life as well as when I was a footballer, at Milan for example. The battle will be long and perilous but it must continue.
What was it like to play for AC Milan?
Milan was a great experience. I've got an enormous amount of respect for it as an institution, and I saw how great a club it was. I wasn't one of the star names when I arrived, yet I was treated exactly the same way.
In France you were tagged as something of a midfield "intellectual". How did that feel?
That didn't always help during my playing days, but on the other hand it's been a real help since my career ended. And my career post-football looks like lasting longer than my playing career! So, in the end I'm very happy to have been labelled that way.
Was it a tough decision to hang up your boots?
The end of a career is always hard. I didn't finish on a glorious note, I'd been sacked by PSG and things didn't go well in Livorno. But that was the moment the mayor of Paris asked me to come and work for his team. So it all came together well and that rather sad moment ended up turning out nicely. Of course that was still a tough period. Football is my passion, it's the only thing I've done my whole life, and so it's not easy when that comes to an end.
Do you still follow football?
I like watching it on television but, for the time being, I find going to stadiums to be too violent an experience. Football could be different, there's no reason why (the atmosphere in) stadiums should be so aggressive. I dream of changing the world, stadiums and people's mentalities.
What is your view on the modern game?
There's something dramatic in what's happening in the major European leagues. This spectacle, that has such a big impact on youngsters, suggests to them that they should always be trying to earn more and more money. They don't understand all the implications of transfers. We have a duty to explain to them that they should play for pleasure, not just to become millionaires. This is what made Kaka's refusal to join Manchester City a good thing. That really gave people in the neighbourhoods something to talk about. Youngsters realised that his love for his club made him turn down an offer to double his salary.
You made a film in 2006 and also acted in one recently. Could this be another potential career avenue for you?
I'm curious about it. I was offered a short role in a film, I said to myself ‘why not?' and I went off and did it. But I've no intention to pursue an acting career - I performed alongside experienced actors and I was terrified. But if I could do it again, I would.
Do you intend to get back involved in football one day?
In a sense I'm still involved, that's why it was important to me to come to FIFA today. I also write for a football magazine, which forces me to stay in the loop. But one day I would like to come back on the other side of the fence, by taking charge of a club for example.