Thanks to the Qatar World Cup, Bollywood has gone completely football crazy; let’s join the party before the curtains come down on the biggest sporting event on Sunday afternoon (GMT)…
By Rodrigues C
INDIA’S craze for cricket is well-known; the game is often called a religion.
Football, the world’s biggest sport, is a distant second but is fast gaining numbers. In fact, FIFA data shows that up to the group stage, Indian fans took second spot in terms of attendees at the World Cup in Qatar.
The English Premier League and La Liga are big. The game’s popularity soars during big ticket events such as the UEFA Euros, the Champions League Final or the ongoing World Cup matches.
Another factor, though not acknowledged here, that helps the growth of football in India is its popularity among Bollywood stars.
Actors such as Ranveer Singh – an Arsenal fan, whose actress wife Deepika Padukone (according to reports in India) is believed to be unveiling the World Cup Trophy at the Final, Ranbir Kapoor – a Barcelona fan and regular visitor to the Nou Camp, Abhishek Bachchan – a huge Chelsea FC fan – and sometimes even Aamir Khan, are often seen playing football on Sundays in the Mumbai suburbs of Bandra and Santa Cruz.
Abhishek Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, and Hrithik Roshan – a Real Madrid supporter, who has been seen at the Santiago Bernabeu, Arjun Kapoor and Liverpool fan John Abraham, own stakes in teams that play in the Indian Soccer League (ISL).
Earlier this year, Arjun Kapoor treated girlfriend Malaika Arora Khan to the Chelsea Vs AC Milan Champions League match at Stamford Bridge.
Abhishek Bachchan, who has been photographed with Chelsea legends John Terry and Didier Drogba, regularly posts about watching matches with his father Amitabh Bachchan at home. The duo even attended the Belgium-France World Cup semi-final clash in St Petersburg, Russia in 2018.
Alia Bhatt is an Arsenal fan, and had publicly asked fashion photographer Atul Kasbekar to get Thierry Henry’s autographed jersey during the footballer’s 2016 India visit.
The football world cup is one of the biggest sporting extravaganza’s in India – in Bollywood and among the general public.
Qatar is less than four hours flight away from Mumbai, making it easier for many actors to attend World Cup matches.
Anil Kapoor’s brother, actor Sanjay Kapoor was at the Argentina-Croatia semi-final along with daughter Shanaya and son Jahaan.
Actor Chunky Panday watched the same match with his daughter Ananya Panday, who claimed that David Beckham waved at her.
The English footballing legend was among the VIP attendees at the clash. He has been reportedly paid £150 million to be an Ambassador for the World Cup and has come under criticism in the UK for endorsing it at the expense of LGBTQIA+ football supporters. Qatar outlaws same sex relationships. Beckham faced fierce criticism from British comedian and TV personality, Joe Lycett. (*See below).
Actor Aditya Roy Kapur, who is rumoured to be dating Ananya Panday, was also present at the Argentina-Croatia match.
Mouni Roy, along with husband Suraj Nambiar, and Karisma Kapoor attended the same match though separately.
Actor Nora Fatehi, who is of Moroccan-Canadian descent went to root for Morocco in their round of 16 match against Spain. Fatehi featured in the official Qatar World Cup song, ‘Light the sky’, alongside Moroccan, Emirati and Iraqi singers Manal Benchlikha, Balqees Fathi and Rahma Riad respectively.
Most importantly, Aamir Khan, along with ex-wife Kiran Rao and son Azad, made it to the Qatar World Cup. It is unknown how many matches the trio watched but one of Aamir’s photos shows him wearing an Argentina vs Mexico accreditation badge. If not for a photograph by a fan at the Lusail stadium and later a video that surfaced on a fan page, the actor’s visit to the World Cup would have gone unnoticed. The Indian media had no inkling of the superstar’s whereabouts; reports only said he was on a holiday abroad.
As for the last day, (Sunday, December 18), it’s still unknown if any Bollywood star will attend the grand finale.
Actor Siddhant Chaturvedi will represent India in the official FIFA World Cup Anthem, along with the American rapper Lil’ baby. The anthem will be directed by X and will come out during the World Cup final to be contested by Argentina and France.
Shah Rukh Khan will be joining Wayne Rooney in the studios of the Indian TV channel Sports 18 for a pre-final discussion. Until the big kick-off, that’s it for now.
*It was revealed last night that British comedian Joe Lycett had faked throwing £10,000 cash into a wood chipper in an attempt to get the global star to rethink. He revealed he has donated the money to LGBTQIA+ charities. On Channel 4 show broadcast last night, the comedian read out a statement from Beckham but said he was not allowed to comment on it. Beckham defended his work with Qatar and accepted “there are different and strongly held views” about the subject. Lycett’s programme also included an excerpt with Dr Naser Mohamed, who is the country’s openly gay man and a doctor.
All pictures: Twitter & Instagram
Third Place play-off – Saturday (tomorrow) December 17
Croatia V Morocco 3pm GMT
World Cup Final – Sunday, December 18
Argentina V France 3pm GMT BBC1 and ITV (UK)