Football buff Farhan Akhtar is winging his way to the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid
The multi-hyphenate talent is UEFA’s official guest from India
- Published 8.05.19, 7:20 PM
- Updated 9.05.19, 6:08 PM
- 4 mins read
I’ve been getting hiccups all morning, so I guess a lot of people are!” Farhan Akhtar laughs out loud when we tell him how he’s making many jealous. Reason? Come June 1, the actor-director-singer will find himself at the Metropolitano Stadium in the Spanish capital of Madrid, catching all the action of the UEFA Champions League final. The multi-hyphenate talent — who’s just released his first independent music album and is currently prepping to play a boxer on the Bolly screen — is UEFA’s official guest from India. t2 caught up with Farhan for a chat on all things football.
It must be both a high and a honour to be able to watch the UEFA finals with the fans of the game. We know you have been wanting to do so for many years.
I am very, very thrilled that I am actually getting to go this time. I came very close a couple of years ago but because of my shoot schedule shifting around, I had to cancel. So, from the depression of that to finally the elation of being able to go has been a good journey to make (laughs).
What are you looking forward to the most in this experience?
The thing I am most looking forward to is definitely the amazing quality of football that I am hoping to see. And then, of course, is the atmosphere and the carnival-like feel that personifies a Champions League final. Madrid is a beautiful city and I have spent quite a bit of time there earlier. So to just experience the city now with that kind of an added atmosphere is going to be amazing.
Which club are you rooting for and who is your favourite player?
The club that I support is Manchester City who, unfortunately, just got knocked out. Now, really it’s open and anyone’s game to win and I have a feeling that (FC) Barcelona will be the favourites to go into the final, on their side of the table at least (the chat took place before FC Barcelona lost to Liverpool on Tuesday night). The Ajax and Tottenham Hotspur match is also poised nicely and will be fun to see. Since my team is out, I hope the finals just turn out to be a great game of football.
As far as players go, I am a huge fan of (Sergio) Aguero who plays for Man City. And if I get to watch (Lionel) Messi, then that will be amazing. I have seen Messi play in Barcelona before. Although that was just a league game, he scored a hat-trick in it, so I was very fortunate to have seen that. To be honest, the only team I am not too familiar with is the Ajax team, but all the others — be it Liverpool with (Mohamed) Salah or Tottenham with (Harry) Kane — have some very great players.
When did you discover your love for football?
From a very young age. Growing up, football was always a weekend thing. During the week, I would come back from school, go to the back of my building and play cricket with the boys in the neighbourhood. But on weekends, we had more time and so football was what happened. I have played football pretty much all my life. Unfortunately, Mumbai has changed a lot from what it was in my childhood; spaces have shrunk and I do feel sad for the kids today because they don’t really have that much space to go out and play. I am talking about football, because one can still play gully cricket and stuff like that.
Do you play football regularly now? Your industry peers have the All-Stars FC team, but one doesn’t see you play with them…
I’ve never played with them. Till about five-six years ago, my friends and I would play football every weekend. Then after that, I got into hardcore training for running and became more involved in playing volleyball. Now, I am training for Toofan (directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who directed Farhan in the 2013 Milkha Singh biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag) in which I play a boxer, so I need to be really careful that I don’t injure my ankles or my knees because that will affect what I am about to do in this film. That’s why I am not playing football right now.
But honestly, football invariably happens when I travel, especially when I go to Goa or any beach place. I quite like beach football.
How has playing sport from a young age shaped the person you are?
For starters, sports always keeps you in a positive frame of mind. The science of it explains it simply as that when you play a sport or when you train, your body releases endorphins that make you feel good about things. So in itself, that’s a huge benefit. And then there’s so much to learn from any sport, especially when you play it in school and college. You learn about teamwork, about dealing with failure….
Has the discipline that you’ve imbibed from sport helped you in your career?
Playing a sportsperson on screen was very specific and the training for that was also very specific. So it helped me into getting the discipline of a runner (Milkha Singh), like the kind of training I am undergoing now is helping me get into the discipline of being a boxer, and will hopefully help me learn the art and science of the sport as I go along. As a filmmaker, it’s definitely helped me in working as a team and keeping my co-workers in a film together as a cohesive unit.
What do you have to say about the way forward for Indian football? Sunil Chhetri and his men have given us quite a few highs in the last year…
Absolutely! There have been many steps forward for the team from say, about 10 years ago. The more we play on the global stage, the more we interact with international players and now we also have trainers who have experienced the big-stage matches. Eventually, you need those experiences to become world-class players. I don’t think India is short on talent; we have so many sportspeople who are making us proud on the world stage and many more who are still undiscovered.
If you had the chance to watch an all-time great on the football field again, who would you pick?
(Diego) Maradona, for sure. When Argentina won the World Cup in 1986, I was old enough to really understand the game and who the players are. Maradona was the first football hero for our generation, the ones growing up in the ’80s. He was an amazing player, an absolute artiste with the ball. To be able to watch him play in his prime would have been phenomenal.
Is there a footballer you would like to play on screen?
It’s difficult to say. From the current lot, I think it would be interesting to play Luis Suarez. I like his career graph.