Salman Khan enters riding on a bicycle along with hundreds of riders following him from behind. He takes a lap of the field on his cycle and then makes his way to the stage. Lights go down, music goes up and spotlight shifts towards the Bollywood actor, who starts dancing on “Mera hi Jalwa”.
This is not a scene of some Bollywood movie. It was happening at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, as part of the opening ceremony of India’s premier football league tournament, Indian Super League (ISL).
For a tournament that boasts of the tagline “Future hai Football”, the performance by Salman Khan appeared nothing more than a mockery. Unfortunately, for the football fans in attendance and the millions watching it at home, the charade did not end there. Soon, the actor took a microphone and called on Kerala Blasters co-owner Sachin Tendulkar along with his side’s captain Sandesh Jhingan.
ATK captain Jordi, who also took the stage with the trio, looked perplexed on stage as Khan carried on with his painful jokes. A look at ceremonies of previous few years will reveal many more foreign stars who stood standing on the stage with confused expressions on their faces.
Pls let me know when the match begins…. Didn’t take the risk of watching opening ceremony… #ISL
— Jeena R Papaadi ✍✍✍ (@jean_blore) 17 November 2017
Actress Katrina Kaif, who also performed before Khan, also came to share the stage with her Tiger Zinda Hai co-star. The actress pretended to be a huge follower of the sport for five minutes, and then declared she is supporting Kerala because they are surrounded by Kerala crowd.
After trying to establish India as a football frenzy nation during U-17 World Cup, do we really need Bollywood actors and cricketers to promote our football events now? Where were football legends Baichung Bhutia and Oinam Bembem Devi? Why are they not representatives of football tournaments in India? These are some of the questions that are raised by this meaningless self-promotion. Clearly, the actors were at the event to promote their upcoming film Tiger Zinda Hai, rather than talk about football.
ISL organisers must look far away to foreign football leagues all over the world. Does any foreign league tournament puts its players on display in the middle of ground before a match like that? The players are usually in the dug-out discussing strategies and planning tactics before the match. It is where they would prefer to be.
I almost took ISL seriously this time. And then the opening ceremony took place. #IndianFootball
— Mihir Vasavda (@mihirsv) 17 November 2017
One could argue the added glamour might rope in a different set of audience towards the tournament. But how long will these mix of audience stay on with the tournament remains a question unanswered. For a tournament that will stretch for around four months this season, the organisers need to appease the football fans in the country and not make them run away after 15 minutes thinking they are wasting their time with this.
This is the first ISL opening ceremony where none of the club owners were present except Sachin !!! What even pic.twitter.com/dZcuETPjAd
— JYOTI BANI JWALA 🙃 (@_Mini_01) 17 November 2017
Majority of supporters in the crowd, who were cheering at the opening ceremony, are part of the football crazy yellow brigade in Kerala who must be excited to see Jhingan came on to the ground. Presence of team-owner Sachin Tendulkar, who has been regarded as a hero for all Indian sports fans, could have also elated some fans. But, overall, what productive value did the so-called “opening ceremony” add to the event remains questionable. Let’s hope we do not have to sit through this next year.