India skipper Virat Kohli, who co-owns the Indian Super League (ISL) football club FC Goa, was at the Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Thursday night, to cheer for his team.
Kohli’s presence certainly inspired the Goa players as they registered their biggest win in this ISL edition.
Known for being a big football buff, Kohli recently launched a foundation to promote football at the grassroots level. In an exclusive interview with TOI, the inspirational Indian cricket captain opened up about his love for sports and his desire to see India as a sporting rich nation.
“There is motivation attached with the sport. Then there was this vision of growing together with the league. I see football developing in India in a massive way. The kind of awareness that ISL has created, everyone around the world talks about it. It’s been a wonderful change to Indian sport and I totally want to endorse that,” Kohli told TOI.
“One thing that I have missed growing up with is sporting culture. When you come to football games, you can see the sporting culture. Because people who follow football understand the sport. This is not about hitting the ball anywhere and running behind it. There is certain intelligence attached to football and those who understand football know exactly what’s going on,” he added.
The main objective of Virat’s Forca Goa Foundation is to use football as a vehicle for positive development in the football crazy state of Goa.
When asked if he invested in football with a sense of business or purely because of passion, Kohli replied: “It’s passion. Unless I connect to a certain thing, I can never be a part. Even when signing brands, I have started following this (principle) very closely. I need to be there from inside whatever I am doing. I have always followed football. Even now we (cricketers) get so excited playing football, because the sport is so easy to get a hang of. You can understand the rules. Obviously at the elite level, it’s different but it’s something that excites children very quickly. It’s about having a ball in front of you, trying to do something with it.”
Kohli has been associated with FC Goa right through its conception four years ago and has been a regular at some of their matches.
Speaking about his ambition to make India a sporting rich country, Virat said: “My ultimate aim in life in general is to have a sporting culture in India where people know each and every sport inside out; to be able to follow all sports equally. I am certainly excited about the fact that we are at a juncture where we have a chance to create that in the next 10-15 years and we foresee Goa as the hub where footballers feel, ‘if I want to become a high-class footballer in India, I need to go there and train’.”
Talking about the reason why India has not been able to prosper in football as compared to cricket, Kohli said: “It’s lack of leagues like this at a major level. There is nothing like globalising the sport. With the kind of visibility on television and the kind of access that people have, it’s creating awareness.
“People know Indian players. People even watched all those who played at the Under-17 World Cup. It’s all about visibility. Unless you get to show your talent, on television screens, it’s very difficult for people to start liking something. It happened with me as well. If our Under-19 World Cup wasn’t televised, maybe I wouldn’t have been sitting here. Our matches were televised and we got our chance to portray our talent. Then people started talking about us. The kind of visibility that the league has will play a major role,” he concluded.