In India, these sports stars have a huge fan following, but FIFA World Cup happens to be a fan moment for these sporting heroes. And, it is no less interesting to know who are the star football icons for theses Indian sports stars.
With the FIFA World Cup fervour hitting fever pitch, renowned Indian sportspersons from different disciplines have turned fans, with the trio of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, as usual, attracting the most attention.
Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar — Indian sport persons take their pick
Cricketer Kuldeep Yadav is banking on Brazilian Neymar to erase the disappointment of the 2014 World Cup, while boxer Akhil Kumar and golfer Rahil Gangjee have adopted Portugal as their ‘doosri country’ (second home) for none other than Ronaldo, reports PTI.
Messi has found a supporter in shuttler HS Prannoy while former hockey captain Sandeep Singh is hoping for Germany to defend the title with their abundance of youth and experience.
Their historic one-off Test against Afghanistan wrapped up inside two days, Kuldeep has got into World Cup mode before flying out for the tour of England next month.
“My favourite team is Brazil because of Neymar. It’s a busy cricket season for us but I will try to watch as many matches as possible to support my favourite country,” Kuldeep told PTI in an interaction arranged by Sony Pictures Network in connection with their #MeriDoosriCountry campaign in India.
Recollecting the 1-7 hammering by Germany in 2014, he said: “It was painful. I could not sleep for a couple of days, it felt like a nightmare.”
Asked what he loved about Neymar, he said: “His style of play and his attitude towards the game. Watching the World Cup live is like a dream for me and I hope to fulfil the same one day.”
Ronaldo has already made his presence felt with a hat-trick, which salvaged a 3-3 draw against Spain and it’s not just his football magic but the off-the-field social work, which has impressed Commonwealth Games gold medallist boxer Akhil.
“I am a big fan of Cristiano Ronaldo and especially of his off-the-field social work. I am definitely going to support Portugal this World Cup.”
Two-time Asian Tour winner Gangjee is simply mesmerised by Ronaldo’s speed, skill and determination.
“I like the way how he does not seem to want to go down easily. Therefore, my favourite country is Portugal,” the 40-year-old said.
“My first childhood memories are of our family visiting Mauritius during one of the World Cups when I must have been 5-6 year old. We used to watch the matches with my late uncle (my mom’s older brother). What I look forward to every time is getting together with my buddies to watch,” the Kolkata golfer added.
The 25-year-old Prannoy wasted little time in picking Messi and said he’s a big fan of the Argentine superstar since childhood.
“I have watched the classic Brazilian players back then when I was young like Rivaldo, Roberto (Carlos) and Ronaldo and those days were way too different. I hope I find some time off to watch the matches on TV like last time.
“My semi-final line-up is Germany, France, Brazil and Belgium. It’s not just Messi’s World Cup but would be routing for him and Argentina,” the world number eight said.
Sandeep is a big fan of Germany because of their inspirational coach Joachim Loew.
“I like the way German coach Joachim Low trains his team and I am sure the team will have good results this World Cup. I will be supporting Germany as it has a lot of young players.”