Bat-and-ball is no more the coolest game for Bollywood to endorse. Once known to associate themselves only with cricket, biggies in the film industry are now in a bid to be seen getting involved in other sports — whether in stands, through campaigns to encourage these, or by setting up special institutes.
Actor Shah Rukh Khan, for instance, says he wants to promote football; top league actors such as Katrina Kaif and Nargis Fakhri recently performed at the Hockey India League, and Aamir Khan and Deepika Padukone are set to be the faces of the Indian Badminton League.
“We are the only nation of such a size without a good football team,” said SRK recently, expressing his desire to open a football academy. Actor Shilpa Shetty is also kicked up about the game. After a successful start to the Super Fight League — a mixed martial arts event, she now wants to launch an International Football League. According to sources close to Shetty, the league will be co-owned by corporates and celebs. “The league will be christened as Football India Cup. It will see some top international footballers,” an insider was quoted as saying to media.
Katrina Kaif, in addition to her performance at the hockey league in Lukcnow over the weekend, also performed at Kabaddi World Cup in Chandigarh last month. Akshay Kumar, meanwhile, is busy popularising taekwondo and other martial arts with his own tournament.
Experts say there are many reasons to this. “There are two major factors behind this shift. First, the disappointment from the performance of our cricket team. And second, the country is on a hunt for the next great sport, or a sports icon,” says communication specialist Alyque Padamsee. Young people in the city feel it’s a good change. “If they’re following another sport, so will their fans, and this means the many sports that were lying neglected get to be popular too,” says Rahul Vij, 23.