Chances are, you were glued to your TV set on day one of the ongoing football World Cup on June 13 (India time). You probably also noticed that Bollywood actor John Abraham was part of the guest line-up for the pre-match show called Café Rio only for one day.
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The next day, however, John — incidentally, also the brand ambassador of the World Cup in India — was conspicuous by his absence. This was after football fans took to social media platforms to question his credibility as a football commentator.
Reacting to it, John says, “For the first time, Indians saw an actor commenting on football, on such an important show. It was a new concept for them, so the reactions were obviously mixed. But, to be honest, our intentions were right. I was there as a football enthusiast, not as an actor.”
People, of course, wondered if it was the criticism that urged John to leave the show. “Unless someone is living under a rock, they know that I am a football enthusiast… I wasn’t there to promote a film, but to promote the sport. That’s all I tried to do, and I enjoyed it. And if people had appreciated it, things would have been different,” he says.
The actor, however, says that the reactions were not all negative: “Many [people] from the film fraternity told me, ‘John, what you have done is commendable because no one from our field has done it before...’.”
About the scope of the sport in India, he says, “We need to develop grassroot programmes. For example, I co-own the club Shillong Lajong FC, and our programs in the North-East are strong. We are training kids aged nine to 20. This will raise the standard of domestic clubs. Once that happens, the sport will surely grow in India.”