After the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli, cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has become the latest cricketer to own a football team in the high-profile Indian Super League, investing in the Chennaiyin FC ahead of the event starting October 12.
Dhoni, the current Indian cricket captain, has pencilled a deal to be a co-owner of Chennaiyin FC along with Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan.
Dhoni was excited to be a part of ISL as he is also passionate about football.
“I used to be a goalkeeper in school and always enjoy playing and watching the game. I wanted to be associated with football so when the opportunity came to be a part of Chennaiyin FC I was ecstatic as this gives me a chance to connect with the city of Chennai again. I have played
franchise cricket for this city so I know how supportive they are,” Dhoni stated.
He added, “I am sure all the players of Chennaiyin FC will see how much love Chennai gives to their players. The Hero Indian Super League is a fantastic platform for football to grow with so many big names, IMG-Reliance and Star India associated with it. I look forward to an exciting season ahead but at the same time it’s important that we develop the grassroots level and produce more football stars in India.”
Last month, Dhoni’s deputy in the Indian cricket team was announced as co-owner of ISL team FC Goa. Tendulkar is a co-owner of Kerala Blasters while ex-cricket captain Sourav Ganguly is a co-owner of Atletico de Kolkata.
The announcement was made by Chennaiyin FC co-owner Vita Dani.
“It is an absolute honour to have the legendary MS Dhoni as one of the co-owners of our franchise, Chennaiyin FC. Mahi has a strong association with the people of Chennai and so with him coming on board, we take another giant step towards achieving the goal of creating a world class football club in Chennai. Vanakkam Mahi!”
Chennaiyin FC starts their ISL campaign with an away game against FC Goa on October 15 while their first home fixture is against Kerala Blasters on October 21.
To a question if ISL would be as successful as IPL, Dhoni said, “Well it should be. There is no good reason as I said before that all the big players have associated themselves with the teams in ISL. All we need is support of the common man.”
He said like in the IPL, the upcoming football league, with the presence of international stars, will help in understanding different cultures.
“What it (IPL) helped us in a way was we started understanding different cultures. Initially, I thought Matthew Hayden will be very aggressive. But it turned out to be that he was a fun loving person. So, you get to know each other and more about the culture. It is the same case over here in ISL.
“The most important thing will be for our youngsters to look up to the international players as they play different type of football in Spain and France etc. So they bring their recipes and put them in the main menu. The change in our youngsters will be that they will start putting in lot more efforts in physical strengthening to match with the international players.
On managing cricket and football, Dhoni said: “Cricket is my first preference and priority as I am representing my country. That is the biggest thing for me. Whatever comes next will be after cricket. Still we get some time off cricket and I would love to spend the time with the team. May be I will have a few sessions with them.
“I am not to their levels of play but I can share my experiences with them. In any sport the pressure situation in a match is the same and therefore there will be a genuine interaction between me and the players in our team.”
Asked about the business side of his association with Chennaiyin FC, Dhoni said: “Well as of now I am not thinking about money. I wanted to get associated with football and the reason being is that I started off as a footballer and I could not make it. It is my first love and it is a glamour sport.”