Abhishek Bachchan: Cup is for the people of Chennai

Chennaiyin FC’s co-owner Abhishek Bachchan on Monday dedicated his team’s Indian Super League victory to the city’s people who were affected by the flood. Abhishek, along with co-owner Vita Dani, was in the city with a few members of the Chennai squad to celebrate the team’s title win against FC Goa.

Bollywood actor and owner of Chennaiyin FC Abhishek Bachchan has dedicated the win to the people of Chennai.   -  M Moorthy

Chennaiyin FC’s co-owner Abhishek Bachchan on Monday dedicated his team’s Indian Super League victory to the city’s people who were affected by the flood. Abhishek, along with co-owner Vita Dani, was in the city with a few members of the Chennai squad to celebrate the team’s title win against FC Goa.

The co-owner spoke about the final, the team’s dedication, Chennaiyin FC’s grassroots programme, the team’s fan-base, and much more.

On the players: I’ll be eternally thankful and grateful to them. They’ve come to represent a city that was going through a hard time. They’ve taken to the city like their own. They played for the city with complete heart and dedication. That’s what I think, is our secret to success.

We play like a family. We call ourselves a family. They played with huge amount of emotion. The final was very personal for them. It wasn’t just another final. They all saw the suffering of the city and felt very deeply for it. Once you’re a family. You’re always a family. These boys will always be a part of Chennai.

On his team’s belief and dedication: Did we expect to be here? No. Did we work towards it? Yes. Did we want to be here? Most definitely. It’s their willpower, talent and dedication. These boys never lost hope. And we never lost hope. It’s a very positive squad.

I believed in them. It was magical. I was reduced to tears. It meant so much to them. They’ve worked so hard. We will never forget what they’ve done for the club and this city.

The players are so calm and collected. When your players are very confident, you know that they’re going to do something. They all play from the heart.

On the controversies on Sunday’s Final: Goa is a fantastic team. Zico is a legend. We all respect him. It was a very fair match. It was a very competitive match.

On Chennaiyin FC unearthing more local talent: We would love a lot of local boys to come through the system and play for us. We have a grassroots programme in place, headed by coach who has been a pillar of strength for us throughout the two seasons. There is a diktat from the ISL to have an extensive grassroots programme. The idea is to have a complete system; to start an academy and build it up to the senior squad. [But] these things will take time.

Once you are champions of something it’s always going to help your cause. So I think winning the ISL is going to give a huge boost for more awareness for football in the state and encourage more youngsters to play football.

On Chennaiyin FC getting Chennai Super Kings’ fans: I see the fan base growing. It hasn’t got anything to do with the IPL. Each sport has the potential to create its own fan base. Vita and I were the last franchise to join ISL and we had less than a month to put a team together. Our biggest fear was that Chennai traditionally wasn’t being regarded as a football centre.

Chennai is known as the hub of cricket. So our fear was how we were going to draw in crowds. We had one of the highest average attendances in the first season. That goes to show what kind of fans that Chennai has as a city. They are very loyal. They are very passionate about sport. They’ve been encouraging even with the visiting teams. That’s a very good quality of the people of Chennai. They are very supportive of the visiting teams as well. They’ve taken to all the players of the squad as their own. The fan culture in Chennai is superb. We have good ambassadors in our squad and if we keep winning, the only way is forward.

On being unable to play in front of the home crowd: It was heartbreaking for the boys that they were not able to play at the Marina Arena [in the semis]. The team played this tournament for the people of Chennai and the journey would be incomplete if we don’t share the victory with our fans.

On owning an I-League team: No. I’m happy with Chennaiyin FC. You shouldn’t divide your allegiance.

On making a difference to sports in India: When I decided to step into sports, I wanted to make a difference. I hope I can do that. If we can raise the level of football in India, if we can help professionalise Kabaddi, then I feel I would’ve done something. My whole quest is to dispel the attitude prevalent in India that sport is not a viable career option. I’m just thankful that the team has given me the opportunity to sit next to the trophy and say that I’m a part of the journey and the team that won ISL 2.

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