This much is a given after Chennaiyin FC’s first ‘home’ game, against Kerala Blasters, in the Indian Super League on Tuesday: never in the recent past has football been received with such hysteria in the city.
Further amping up the proceedings was the presence of Sachin Tendulkar, the co-owner of Kerala Blasters, Abhishek Bachchan, his Chennaiyin FC counterpart, Amitabh Bachchan, and Rajinikanth.
The giant screen at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium regularly captured the trio smiling and waving to the fans. For good measure, Amitabh and Abhishek did a lap of honour at half-time and also took a few penalty kicks.
The ensuing delirium in the stands was a rather appropriately joyful accompaniment to the on-field action.
A couple of hours before the match, The Hindu caught up with Abhishek. On the team’s logo ‘duradrishti’, the actor proudly proclaimed it was his idea. “It looks good, no? People are trying to become international and forgetting what we have,” he told The Hindu .
The 38-year-old said he is excited at the prospect of setting up a fan base in a city that’s ‘not traditionally a footballing stronghold’.
“There have been some great Tamilian footballers who have played for India. We brought football in here and we are sold out for the first-ever game,” he said.
He said that M.S. Dhoni coming on board as co-owner was a value-addition. “I have known Mahi for several years and he was a State-level goalkeeper. Mahi is very passionate about football.”
Sure enough, there were full-throated cries of ‘Dhoni’ and ‘CSK’ from the audience. But, for once, the rapturous cries of ‘CFC, CFC’ put them in the shade as the home team emerged triumphant.