SYDNEY, Oct 11 — Former Manchester United and Portugal winger Nani believes the regularity with which he is being stopped by fans asking for photos is proof positive that Australia’s football culture is alive and well.

The 35-year-old made his first appearance in the A-League for Melbourne Victory at the weekend after a move from Italy to Australia, where soccer struggles for the spotlight in a market dominated by the Australian Rules and rugby league codes.

“I like the environment here. People say that there is not culture here about football, but it’s not true,” he told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.

“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 more and more people are paying attention to our games and the sport.”

Nani has already made his mark on the pitch with a bright display for Victory in their 3-2 win over their main rivals Sydney FC in their season-opener on Saturday, setting up his team’s second goal with a delightful ball across the box.

The Champions League winner was unable to escape the attentions of fans even during a pitchside interview after the game, however, with a couple of youngsters jumping over the fence to get pictures with him.

“It was nice to see the kids running on the field. Obviously the security doesn’t like (it), but this is the passion of the game,” he added.

“When you see that, we need to put ourselves in that position because we’ve all been that – one day we were kids and we wanted to do that as well.” — Reuters