In 2004, I had gone to Pakistan for a music concert along with Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor Khan. Sourav (Ganguly), who was the Indian captain then, was a friend and we were invited for the series-deciding ODI game between the arch-rivals at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. India won the match and the series. But keeping that aside, what I also felt was that the rivalry between the two nations is only restricted to politics. The people in Pakistan do not have any hatred for Indians. We were pampered with kebabs and pizzas throughout the match. I was mesmerised. Despite losing the game, a few Pakistanis joined us in our celebrations. I am still in touch with a couple of friends I made there.
But football is my first love. I have been a fanatic since a young age. Whenever I travel abroad, I try to watch football matches at iconic venues — like Old Trafford (Manchester United) and Stamford Bridge (Chelsea). After my work, in New Delhi, I sneak out to play on the streets, even if it is late in the night. Wherever I go, I carry my studs, boots and the soccer attire. I love to play with strangers and I can play anywhere. There are so many local games with chappals and bags as goal posts.
I have been lucky in football, as I also had the chance to meet the Argentina legend, Diego Maradona, six or seven years ago during one of his visits to India. I regularly stay up late for matches.
As told to Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya
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