He is not a footballer, a parliamentarian, or a Bollywood superstar. Still, the Baba may get a shot to bend it like Beckham.
Ramdev — the versatile, saffron-clad yoga guru — may don a football jersey, and a pair of boots too, when the country’s parliamentarians take on Bollywood celebrities in a charity match in Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on July 24.
He is likely to be on the pitch twice — briefly for both teams in either halves — for a cause close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s heart. The match is being organised in support of Modi’s two pet campaigns — the Swachh Bharat cleanliness drive, and the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao mission for girls.
“Baba Ramdev is a health enthusiast and football promotes good health. So he agreed to become the brand ambassador for the match. The PM in his Man Ki Baat (radio address) in March talked about promoting football. So Baba Ramdev decided to create awareness,” the guru’s communication adviser, Shantanu Gupta, said on Tuesday.
Ramdev is a known supporter of Modi and is often seen in the company of BJP politicians now.
“Bollywood stars Abhishek Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor, Arjun Kapoor, Dino Morea, Siddharth Malhotra and several more will represent the All Stars Football Club, a charity club started by film producer Bunty Walia,” Gupta said.
The parliamentarians will be led by Babul Supriyo, the BJP MP from West Bengal who is junior minister in the heavy industries and public enterprises ministry.
The skipper can count on the experience and skills of Prasun Banerjee, the former India captain who is now a Trinamool Congress MP.
Other confirmed team-mates till now are BJP MPs Manoj Tewari, Parvesh Verma, Kamlesh Paswan, Satish Gautam, Bhola Singh, Indian National Lok Dal’s Dushyant Chautala and Ram Mohan Naidu of the TDP.
In all, some 21 MPs and senior ministers are likely to play. “Some of the senior ministers will join their young and fit colleagues on the field for five to 10 minutes,” Gupta said.
Olympic shooting champion Rajyavardhan Rathore, who is the junior information and broadcasting minister, and junior home minister Kiren Rijiju have yet to confirm their participation. Indian cricket board chief and Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur’s nod is awaited too.
“We have written to some 100 parliamentarians, including those from the Congress,” Gupta said.
Ramdev is not funding the ticketed event, organised by Adhunik, a private art gallery, he said, informing that tickets will be priced at Rs 200, Rs 400 and Rs 800. “The money will be donated to fund the two government campaigns.”
The yoga guru’s company, Patanjali, will distribute free snacks and drinks, though.
Some of the early-bird enthusiasts in the parliamentary team have started training for the match.
“We have not started training as a team. I practice on my own at the National Stadium … the last time I played football was when I was in school,” said Manoj Tewari, the vice-captain.
Parvesh Verma is training on alternate days at Nehru Park in southern Delhi. “It’s just a fun match not a competition, and for a cause,” he said, trying not to show his nerves.