KICK OFF TIME IN RUS­SIA

Be it Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, Lionel Messi or Ney­mar Jr, all eyes will be on the FIFA World Cup stars. We speak to soc­cer en­thu­si­asts from Bol­ly­wood about their plans

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - Live - - FRONT PAGE - Prashant Singh ■ prashant.singh@htlive.com

It’s time for the big kick-off, as the FIFA World Cup gets un­der­way tonight, so don’t be sur­prised if foot­ball con­ver­sa­tions take over all the cricket talk for a month. Like mil­lions of foot­ball fans across the globe, a num­ber of fa­nat­ics from Bol­ly­wood are also high on the soc­cer magic. We catch up with five such en­thu­si­asts to talk about the ‘beau­ti­ful game’, its stars, dark horses, their favourites and more.

What does the game of foot­ball mean to you?

Kar­tik Aaryan: Firstly, it means fit­ness. It helps de­velop skills such as speed, strength and agility. It also teaches team work and self­less­ness. I make sure that I play foot­ball at least once a week. Ayush­mann Khur­rana: I fol­low the [foot­ball] world cup very closely. I am glad the sport is gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity in In­dia too. My brother, Apar­shakti, is also ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about foot­ball. Harsh­vard­han Kapoor:

Foot­ball is ev­ery­thing to me. It’s pure love. I feel it stands for bond­ing in its high­est form, as there are very few things in life that are as ex­hil­a­rat­ing.

Ar­jun Kapoor: Foot­ball is a game that de­fines life. You can be skil­ful, amaz­ing and out­stand­ing in­di­vid­u­ally, but if you work as a team, you can be even bet­ter. The game of foot­ball teaches that.

Shoo­jit Sir­car: The game is my life­line. I call the foot­ball pitch my ‘think­ing ground.’ Every move and goal is new and fresh. It’s like a piece of art. The same is true for an artist too.

Name three teams you will root for this year...

Ar­jun: Bel­gium, Eng­land and Ar­gentina Kar­tik: Ar­gentina, Por­tu­gal and Brazil Ayush­mann: Ger­many, Ar­gentina and Por­tu­gal Harsh­vard­han: Eng­land, Spain and France

Shoo­jit: Brazil, which is an all-time favourite for all Ben­galis; Ar­gentina and Bel­gium.

Who could be the dark horses?

Ar­jun: I don’t know if they are a ‘dark horse’, but France has been play­ing con­sis­tently well. Kar­tik: Croa­tia could sur­prise. Poland can give a tough time, and Uruguay has lots of po­ten­tial.

Ayush­mann: Croa­tia, Eng­land and Mex­ico. They were dan­ger­ous in the qual­i­fiers.

Harsh­vard­han: Bel­gium has an amaz­ing squad. They lack ex­pe­ri­ence but they could sur­prise every­one.

Shoo­jit: Bel­gium is a young team with some bril­liant play­ers. Also, Ger­many will be tough to beat.

Which play­ers will you fol­low?

Ar­jun: Harry Kane (Eng­land), Eden Haz­ard (Bel­gium), and Lionel Messi (Ar­gentina).

Kar­tik: Lionel Messi (Ar­gentina), Cris­tiano Ron­aldo (Por­tu­gal) and Ney­mar Jr (Brazil).

Ayush­mann: Lionel Messi (Ar­gentina), Cris­tiano Ron­aldo (Por­tu­gal) and Ney­mar Jr (Brazil).

Harsh­vard­han: Fred (Brazil), Sergej MilinkovicSavic (Ser­bia), and Jesse Lingard (Eng­land)

Shoo­jit: Lionel Messi (Ar­gentina), Ney­mar Jr (Brazil) and Mo­hamed Salah (Egypt).

Any spe­cial plans to catch all the foot­ball ac­tion?

Kar­tik: I was sup­posed to go to Rus­sia and watch the matches live, but couldn’t due to work com­mit­ments. But the foot­ball world cup means a re­union with my friends.

Ar­jun: No plans right now, but I am a foot­ball fa­natic, so even if I am trav­el­ling, I will find a way to fol­low every match. I plan to catch some of

the matches with friends and fam­ily.

Ayush­mann: Given my work sched­ule, it will be dif­fi­cult to catch all the matches, but I plan to watch as many as I can with my brother, Apar­shakti, and friends.

Harsh­vard­han: I will be glued to my home the­atre watch­ing all the games with my close bud­dies.

Shoo­jit: I am trav­el­ling to Rus­sia to catch the ac­tion live. My wife, Jhuma, my daugh­ters, Ron­nie (Lahiri; friend and busi­ness part­ner), and some other friends will also be with me. Jhuma also loves foot­ball, and we al­ways wanted to watch one of the world cups to­gether.

PHO­TOS: ABHEET GIDWANI, AFP, REUTERS, ATUL KASBEKAR, PRASAD NAIK, GETTY IMAGES

(Top) Ayush­mann Khur­rana, (above) Kar­tik Aaryan, and (right) Ney­mar Jr (Above, clockwise) Ar­jun Kapoor, Shoo­jit Sir­car, and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo

Lionel Messi

Harry Kane, (in­set) Harsh­vard­han Kapoor

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