Games besides cricket have gotten a boost due to Bollywood

Sep 14, 2014, 07:36 IST | Urmimala Banerjee

From the Indian Premier League to the Indian Super League, Bollywood actors have gone all out to promote sports other than cricket. We decode what this means for sportsmen from these disciplines

With news floating in that former France and Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka could be a part of Ranbir Kapoor’s football team, Mumbai City FC, the Indian Super League (ISL) has got more exciting. It’s not just football, sports besides cricket have recently got a shot in the arm due to Bollywood’s new-found love for sports.

The Pro Kabaddi league that saw the presence of celebrities like Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai and Sachin Tendulkar was a huge hit 

Passion play
Whether it’s Shah Rukh Khan’s love for his cricket team or Ranbir Kapoor’s idol worship of Argentine hero, Lionel Messi, some of our B-Town stars are true sports enthusiasts. Olympic bronze medallist, Vijender Singh, says, “I was present at some of the Pro Kabaddi matches. The kind of involvement that Abhishek Bachchan showed was heart-warming. He lent not only his name but also his time and emotions.” Both sports and acting demand a knockout act. Physique athlete, Miihier Singh, who recently represented India in the Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championship, tells us, “I feel Bollywood superstars understand the kind of passion and hardwork a sportsman puts in his regime. They know that we too are performers who don’t have the luxury of retakes. I feel it’s their passion that brings them to the fore.”

Amitabh Bachchan supported shooter Ayonika Paul in her CWG campaign 

Crowd pullers
There is no denying that Bollywood stars help bring in the crowds. India’s star footballer, Sunil Chhetri, says, “Bollywood personalities influence a large part of the audience and help bring in the crowds. Yes, it does help when a celebrity enjoys a particular sport as it attracts new spectators and creates awareness about the sport.” It should be noted that actors such as Suniel Shetty and Jackie Shroff often support smaller sporting events. Former India hockey captain, Dhanraj Pillay, says, “I feel that Bollywood is doing a lot for sports in the country — much more than the government. I would like to thank celebrities such as John Abraham, Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar for their support. Their presence gives a lot of confidence to young players.” Miihier Singh also endorses Pillay’s views. He says, “Somehow, the image of a sportsman enhances once he’s seen with a star. A lot of people will ask about me if they spot me with Salman Khan or Arnold Schwarzenegger.”

Vijender Singh, India’s boxing champ 

Glamorous evil
One of the main criticisms that follow Bollywood’s involvement with sports is that the flashy lifestyle distracts young talent. boxing champion Vijender Singh opines, “I don’t think it’s true at all. I am a sportsman who did a stint with Bollywood and one can manage the two very well. Moreover, celebrities across the globe are involved with sports and teams. No one raises a finger at them. A sportsman will always remain a sportsman.” He further says that people should look at the positive side rather than crib about such non-issues. Chhetri too has similar views. He opines, “I don’t think that stars are a distraction. They only add to the glamour and the buzz around the sport — it happens all over the world.”

Footballer Sunil Chhetri feels that B-Town can greatly help draw the crowd

A sea change
Sportsmen feel that B-Town can do a lot more to promote sports. Pillay informs, “I feel they should support more events at lower levels, which will encourage children and parents.” Rakesh Kumar, India’s kabaddi captain who took part in Pro-Kabaddi League. tells us, “There was a buzz around the kabaddi team after it won gold at the Asian Games in 2006 and 2010. Sadly, the interest wore off in 15-20 days. After this league, people have recognised me at the airport, mall and restaurant. It feels great to be known in the country. We kabaddi players work hard but we don’t get money or fame as compared to cricketers. The celebrity involvement has made a world of difference. Earlier, I used to see 70-80 kids playing kabaddi at the sports ground in Nizampur, my hometown. Post the league, the number has doubled to 120-150.”

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