New Delhi, April 18 -- John Abraham's interest these days clearly lies in promoting sports in India. The Bollywood actor, who already co-owns a team (Delhi Waveriders) in the Hockey India League, has now also joined hands with an I-League football squad, (Shillong Lajong FC), to buy the Guwahati football franchise for the Indian Super League (ISL).
In this interview, John talks about the North East being the hub of football in India, and how he plans to juggle his film career with his sports investments. You already own a stake in a hockey team. What made you invest in a football team now?
Football has been part of my DNA ever since I was a child. I was a good player, and once even aspired to play for my country. So it's (the move to buy a team) definitely not 'now'. Also, I believe, as a country we need to promote sports and fitness, and football gives me a chance to do both!
How do you plan to expand the game's reach and popularity in Assam as well as in other parts of India?
North-east India is actually the strongest football-following region in the country. 60 % of all national (football) players emerge from there. So there is a cultural and organic growth with ISL clearly visible. From spectators to followers, it's all there. I am very excited about bringing good quality football from this region to the fore. With help from media and other partners, and through ISL, I'll take the North East to the rest of India.
Considering football isn't as popular in India when compared to cricket for instance, what do you see as your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for me is to rope in great players to make the game more interesting. And secondly, I need to build a fan base for the sport. These will be the two key solutions we will work towards achieving.
You are a busy Bollywood actor, a film producer, the co-owner of a hockey team and a family man. Is juggling all this along with a football team going to be difficult?
Time is what you make of it. I make the time for sports and my film commitments. I enjoy the process (of doing both) because I am always looking for newer avenues to learn from, that's what keeps me going.
Do you think your work in Bollywood will get affected due to the ISL?
No, it won't. I will manage with the time I have between my shoots... I'll schedule everything in advance.