Sport & Culture

Can Football Go Big in India?

The King of Bollywood is poised to buy a big stake in Goa club Dempo FC. Can football grab Indians’ hearts?

India isn’t really known for its football, but the local game could be about to get a much-needed injection of glamour as Bollywood star Shahrukh Khan is poised to buy a 50 percent stake in Goa club Dempo FC.

Dempo are the most successful team in recent Indian history, but won’t say no to being associated with such a name.

Khan is known simply as the King of Bollywood, and has appeared in more than 70 films in a distinguished career. Whatever awards are there to be won, he’s won them. According to reports, he’s worth over half a billion US dollars due to a successful career and various business interests.

He hit international headlines in 2009, when he was stopped for questioning by immigration officials at Newark Airport as he travelled to New York to promote a film that looked at racial profiling after September 11.

The deal hasn’t quite been closed yet, but that’s expected to happen in a week or so.

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Khan is already a familiar figure in the world of sport as he co-owns Kolkata Knight Riders in cricket’s Indian Premier League.

You can’t really say that Indian football is in the doldrums because in recent memory, it has simply never featured on the sporting landscape in the first place. Cricket has always been the game on the sub-continent, and while the burgeoning middle class has started to take football to its heart, fans tend to look to Europe and the big leagues. Indeed, websites are often reluctant to put Indian players in their main headlines as the number of clicks pales in comparison with the latest goings on at Manchester United and Barcelona.

The addition of some serious Bollywood glamour could make a difference. Even a club like Dempo, which has helped to make Goa a relative hotbed of football in the country, could use some extra cash to improve facilities and sign a few new players.

Indian football legend Baichung Bhutia believes that the presence of Khan in the league can help everyone.

“Personally speaking, I’ve been fighting, discussing a lot to get some investors into my team United Sikkim,” said Bhutia. “So SRK coming to football will not only help Dempo but also others.”

As for Khan, it remains to be seen if he has made the right decision. After all, here’s the man who turned down a major role in Slumdog Millionaire. He says he doesn’t regret that, and all involved in Indian football hopes there are no regrets this time, too.