He achieved fame and adulation in cricket but Mahendra Singh Dhoni is also “quite good” with a football at his feet and has even impressed a top Indian professional footballer.
The 39-year-old Dhoni, who bid adieu to international cricket on Saturday to bring the curtains down on a glorious career, loves to play football and has often trained with Indian Super League (ISL) side Chennaiyin FC, which he co-owns.
It was during those sessions that India striker Jeje Lalpekhlua saw the two-time World Cup-winning captain’s football skills and instincts.
“He just loves to play football. If he is around, whenever we’re playing a short game during training, he’d always try to join us,” said Jeje about Dhoni.
“Of course, he’s played football when he was a kid and you can gauge how much he still enjoys playing the game even now. He was always so good with the ball at his feet.”
“He may have been a goalkeeper back in school. But when he’s playing, it has been evident that his skills with his feet have not left him. He’s quite good at football, to be honest,” Jeje added in an AIFF release.
Dhoni was helpful to Chennaiyin FC footballers and he would offer them tips on how to deal with injuries.
“In one of the ISL matches, I suffered a cramp and had to limp out. After the match he came down to me and mentioned about some of his teammates in the cricket team who also suffered from cramps, and the ways they dealt with it,” Jeje claimed.
Local player Edwin Sydney Vanspaul, one of the latest additions to the Chennaiyin FC squad, described how the city treated Dhoni like its adopted son.
“People here are just crazy about him. They may have jobs, and other responsibilities with their family, but if MSD is in town and Chennai Super Kings have a training session, they would all head to the stadium, just to watch them practice,” he said. “And when MSD comes out to bat in the nets, these guys just go bonkers.”
Talking about Dhoni being called ‘Thala’ by the people of Tamil nadu, Vanspaul said, “Generally these titles are given to film stars like Ajith Kumar. But for Dhoni, it did not take long for him to earn that title.
“Perhaps it is because he mingled with the local culture here so easily. He even speaks a little Tamil. It’s these little gestures and small efforts that the people of this city appreciate, and that is why they shower him with so much love.”
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