Indian Super League is no walk in the park, warns Williams

Former Perth Glory midfielder Aryn Williams. Source: Twitter

Aryn Williams was an Australian player in India before it became the done thing and the former Perth Glory midfielder believes that it can be a great move from the A-League albeit a challenging one.

Before heading to Indonesian giants Persebaya Surabaya in 2019, the 26-year-old had a spell in India with Neroca FA.

At the time the I-League was the top tier of Indian football. Come 2020 and the Indian Super League (ISL) has taken that position and, ahead of the new season, clubs have been shopping extensively in the A-League.

“Aussies are leaving the A-League as there is talk of the salary cap being reduced,” Williams told The World Game.

“Ultimately players are moving there as they are getting more money and as the league is taking place in a bubble in Goa and that could ease the mind of players who were concerned about coronavirus.

“The ISL is getting bigger and the standard is getting higher. If you do well there then you can move to other Asian leagues.”

However, The fast-paced life of the subcontinent with 1.4 billion people can be an eye-opener.

“There was a culture shock, to be honest after living in England and Australia,” added Williams.

“There are some nice places but it is so heavily populated and poverty can be quite high in the cities and I was taken aback by some of it at first. It wasn’t hard to live there but it was harder than Australia.”

Williams, whose mother was born in the country, also wanted to play for India on the international stage though struggled to negotiate the bureaucratic minefields.

“That was my ultimate goal, to get an Indian passport and go to the national team but when I arrived it just proved to be an impossible task. I went through many agencies and companies but nobody really knew what to do. It was making me stressed so in the end I left it.”

If the ISL is increasingly full of Australians, Williams is now playing in a league that should have more than it has.

Indonesia is another country with huge potential though unlike India, football is very much the number one sport as he had found out at Persebaya.

“I had the opportunity to move to Indonesia. One of the reasons was that my dad had been a coach in the country and when I talked to him and told him of the offer from Persebaya, he said immediately that I should go, as it was a big club. It is also well-run with salaries paid on time and everything is organised nicely.”

Williams has impressed so far in the midfield for the East Java giants and has been enjoying life on the archipelago.

“I came midway through last season and we played Bali United at home and we had a huge sell-out crowd. That was my second game and I was a bit shocked but then you become accustomed to it and then you need it and it’s hard to play when they are not there.”

That is the situation at the moment. The 2020 league barely started before it was suspended due to coronavirus and it remains unclear when or if it will restart. 

Williams is hoping it is sooner rather than later as he has already impressed fans of the six-time champions, demanding though they are.

“There is a lot to lose here. People spend whatever money they have on football and so the pressure is incredible --especially for foreigners. There are many trying to come here and foreigners can be changed easily and it happens every half-season.

"If you are not performing, they will change you. You have to win and it is more competitive here than Australia.”

That is one reason why Aussie players should think about a move to their closest Asian neighbours.

“There should be more. The Brazilians come here on a low salary for a season, prove themselves and then get a move for triple the salary.

"Many Australians won’t do that and are asking clubs for $15,000 a month. Australians are good enough technically but some find it difficult as everything is not perfect like in the A-League like training facilities and sports science. It can take time to adjust but is rewarding when you do.”

Williams revealed a return to the A-League is still on the to-do list. 

“I would love to go back to Australia if I got the right offer financially and it came at the right time in my career but at the moment, I am happy in Indonesia. It’s a great place to play football.”