CELEBS SUPPORT DIVERSE SPORTS
The association between showbiz and sport truly took off with the Indian Premier League, when actors Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty invested in teams, generating intense interest in the T20 league. A few years down the line, the scene is more diverse.
While cricket still gets more eyeballs than any other game in this country, its absolute dominance has waned. Even as the IPL auction took place yesterday, other sporting disciplines such as kabaddi, football and mixed martial arts could boast high-profile backers — actors Ajay Devgn, Arjun Rampal, Randeep Hooda, Tiger Shroff and Jacqueline Fernandez, to name a few. Some of them are not just promoting, but also investing e.g. in the Pro Kabaddi League and Super Fight League (mixed martial arts).
Devgn, who owns the team Mumbai Maniacs, a part of the mixed martial arts league, says, “I love it, because I’m connected to action. It’s fun, exciting and very challenging. That’s why I wanted to be a part of this, after we saw how it happens in the US.” Devgn is an advanced exponent of taekwondo, a form of martial Dominance of cricket challenged, as Bollywood celebrities promote and invest in other disciplines arts from Korea.
Fitness enthusiast Arjun Rampal, who was in the Capital for a mixed martial arts match this weekend, also finds the sport “extremely exciting”. He says, “We want to take it to the grassroots level of India.”
Abhishek Bachchan’s enthusiastic role in the Pro Kabaddi League gave this game a makeover. For ages, a non-urban game, kabaddi now draws big crowds in city stadiums. “I’d love to be an agent who can change India’s attitude towards sport,” said Abhishek earlier.
Investment in a sport is a blend of passion and profit for celebrities. Juhi Chawla says, “It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, in which both parties get more exposure.”
Arbaaz Khan, who was in Delhi to promote his film, is also keen, saying, “I love cricket, but if I get a chance, I’d invest in boxing or wrestling.”
Left: Abhishek Bachchan’s role changed the face of pro kabaddi in India; Above: Actors Tiger Shroff and Jacqueline Fernandez have invested in the mixed martial arts league
Taekwondo champ and actor Ajay Devgn (centre) and actor Arjun Rampal promote mixed martial arts
Juhi Chawla was among the first IPL team owners from Bollywood