The Aussie striker mixing it with the stars in the Indian Super League

Aussie striker Tolgay Ozbey is relishing being part of the star-studded Indian Super League and believes the new competition can help football flourish on the sub-continent.

Ozbey has been playing in India’s I-League since 2010 and signed for FC Goa in the Super League.

The three-month tournament has attracted the likes of Robert Pires, Alessandro Del Piero, Luis Garcia, Freddie Ljungberg and David Trezeguet as marquees and Zico, Marco Materazzi and Peter Reid as coaches.

Modeled along the lines of cricket’s Indian Premier League, the ISL aims to increase football’s popularity in the country.

Ozbey made his first appearance for FC Goa off the bench in the recent 2-1 defeat at the hands of Kolkata.

FC Goa is managed by Brazilian legend Zico and its squad includes former Arsenal players Pires and Andre Santos.

The club has only managed one draw from its first four games, but Ozbey told FourFourTwo the Super League experience has been positive with increased professionalism and commercialization of the sport.

“It's really great, there is a lot of hype over it at the moment and to be apart of it is amazing,” the former Newcastle Jet said.

“The I-League has improved a lot over the last five seasons and will continue to improve, but this Indian Super League actually gives players the opportunity to be seen.

“Also in the Indian Super League six foreigners can be on the field, which really improves the standard.

“It's unfortunate our team has not started too well, but I feel we will hit our straps soon. Pires and Andre are world-class footballers and a great influence on the team, all the players enjoy training with them and learning from them.”

A western Sydney product, Ozbey has been in red-hot form since arriving in India for East Bengal in 2010. He bagged 35 goals in 48 games for the I-League club before joining cross-city rivals Mohan Boagan in 2012.

The forward scored 10 goals in 17 appearances and, after a stint with Mohammadan Sporting, signed with Dempo SC in January.

At Dempo, which is coached by fellow Australian Arthur Papas (also assistant coach at Goa), Ozbey managed eight goals in eight match as the club finished fourth in the competition.

The new I-League season kicks off in December and Dempo are planning to improve on the previous campaign.

“We had a very good finish to the season last season, but fourth won't be good enough this season,” Ozbey said.

“We have a squad that is good enough to win the league.”

The 28-year old is effusive about working with Papas but said the departure of former Socceroo Colosimo from the Dempo squad will be hard to replace.

“It's been great, probably the best time I've had in India so far,” Ozbey said.

“We have a great bunch of players and an excellent coach. He is definitely one of the best coaches I've worked with, he has a lot of time for young players and also has spent a lot of time improving my game.

“I think our team and especially myself are very lucky to have someone like Arthur as the coach.

“It will definitely very hard (to replace Colosimo), not just as a footballer but as a friend and a leader. Even till today the Indian boys keep asking me, is there any chance Simon will come back.”

Ozbey, who was named as the NSW Premier League’s player of the year in 2006 and won the competition’s golden boot award in 2006 and 2006, is contracted to Dempo until May next year.

The striker made one appearance for Sydney FC back in 2006 and played five games for the Newcastle Jets in the 2006-2007 season.

Ozbey is happy in India but admits he would relish another shot in the A-League.

“Australia is my home and I'd definitely be interested in playing in the A-League,” he said.

“I've been very focused on what I am doing here, there has been interest from clubs in Asia, but things have been great here that it wasn't worth giving up. I'd definitely like to be apart of the A-League one day.”

PHOTO: FC Goa