Abhishek Bachchan enjoying every minute of ISL

Chenaiyin FC's co-owner Abhishek Bachchan is not perturbed by his team's slow start to the season. The Bollywood star took time out to speak to Sportstar about his passion for sports and much more.

Chennaiyin FC have the full backing of Abhishek Bachchan.   -  R. RAVINDRAN

Chennaiyin FC have won just two of their first five matches in the ongoing ISL. The team’s co-owner Abhishek Bachchan, however, is not perturbed by this slow start to the season. The Bollywood star took time out to speak to Sportstar about his passion for sports and much more.

Question: How would you rate Chennaiyin’s performance so far?

Answer: Not an ideal start, but it’s just the start of the season. We opened at home and had four away games. Now we are back and are going to play a string of home games. Hopefully we can turn things around. I am happy with the boys and they are gelling well.

Any specific areas that you would like the team to improve?

There are no areas of concern. I like the way they play. The defence is good, and the midfield is coming together well, which is crucial, especially for the formation Marco (Materazzi) uses. The forwards are doing well and even someone like Fikru, who is making a comeback from an injury, is doing well. So, no concerns!

How has the team evolved from the first season?

We have picked up from where we had left off last year in terms of quality and I have seen huge improvements, especially in our local players. Players like Balwant, Jeje, Jayesh, who we have retained, have grown significantly.

Are you involved in player recruitment?

Absolutely!

How has been the response from the fans?

Yes, there has been. Our barometer is the first game and we had 7000 more compared to last year. Yes, it was also the opening ceremony, but I am told we are sold out for tomorrow’s game as well. We have been fortunate to have received a tremendous response. Last year we averaged about 25000 in a 29000 capacity stadium and in a city that has not been traditionally associated with the sport.

For the popularity of sports leagues, do you think the mix of celebrity and sportspersons is a must, particularly for non-cricketing sports?

Not at all! As a team owner if my celebrity status helps put the spotlight on a sport that’s great. Did I employ it in Kabaddi? Absolutely. I wanted to establish it and be part of that sporting revolution. But at the end of the day a sport has to stand on its own and the presence of an actor in the stands won’t make lot of difference if the sport is not exciting.

How do you think the product can be improved?

For us, our main focus is on the grassroots programme and we are investing heavily on that. That’s going to bear fruit in five six years time. You are going to see more local players and our assistant coach Vivek Nagul is handling it. We have reached out to 10,000 children across the state and we hope to have players from our youth academies playing for the main team one day.

What are the best things about being a team owner?

It has been rewarding. From a passionate football fan now I am part of a managing team. It has been great and I am enjoying it. The city is close to me and the fans have taken ownership of the team. The best moment from this season came from our first home match. To see my dad (Amitabh Bachchan), Rajni uncle (Rajnikanth) and Sachin Tendulkar sitting together and watching my team play was great.

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