At 25, Virat Kohli co-owns an ISL football team and the young Indian batsman says his passion for the sport along with future planning influenced his decision to invest in FC Goa.
Former cricket stars Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar along with Bollywood personalities such as John Abraham and Abhishek Bachhan also co-own different teams in the much-hyped league, beginning next month.
“Some might think I am pretty young to do something like this or it is a step taken too early but nothing is never too early. If you believe in something, you have to put your 100 per cent commitment to it and I decided to do it because I want football to grow in India,” Kohli said defending his move.
“I just decided to come on board with FC Goa more with the keenness I have for football. It is also a business venture that I am looking at for the future. Cricket is not going to last forever so, whenever I am done, whenever I retire, I am keeping all my options open. It is something that excited me a lot and I tried to go ahead with it,” he said.
Kohli was confident that just as the cash-rich Indian Premier League has helped youngsters improve their game, the Indian Super League will also help football players in the country.
“As you have seen in IPL, a lot of people are against it, a lot of people don’t like it but what it has done is, it has given confidence to the younger players playing along with the best in the world, so they have confidence to go out and perform at that level.
“This is what ISL is going to do, where you get a chance to play with the legends of the game. You feed off their talent, you feed off their experience and learn as much as you can from them and your confidence level goes up. Because of this league we will see the level of football going higher.
“The skill level is certainly going to improve, the confidence of the players, the infrastructure, so ISL is a step in making football a major sport in India and I am all for it,” he said.
Kohli said he was involved with the franchise during the player’s draft, figuring out which players to pick for the squad.
“I was pretty much in touch with FC Goa, figuring out whom to pick. We have a pretty strong side. Average age of the side is 28. The Indian players have been playing together in I-League, the co-ordination is there, the commitment is there.
They know their game pretty well,” he said. He heaped praise on the club’s coach and Brazilian legend Arthur Antunes Coimbra (Zico) and said the youngsters would benefit from him.
“It makes a lot of difference to the Indian players to be coached by Mr Zico. The kind of experience he has and the skill that we see, the kind of players he has worked with. I think we can get that into FC Goa.
“The Indian players would benefit big time from him. At the end of the day, that is what you need as a sportsperson, to feed off someone else’s experience and learn as much as you can. Someone as experienced as Mr. Zico would be great for FC Goa. So if a coach can give you confidence and make you feel good about your ability, that is all you need at the end of the day,” he said.
Kohli, who had a forgettable tour of England, had practised with batting icon Sachin Tendulkar recently to improve his technique and the top batsman said the session was quite helpful.
“Whatever I practised with him was quite good. I had a little chat with him about his career, his mindset. It was very helpful for me,” he said.