CHENNAI: If seven years with Chennai Super Kings made MS Dhoni something of a Chennaiite, the Indian captain on Monday signalled that he will continue his affair with the city by purchasing a stake in Indian Super League franchise Chennaiyin FC.
The CSK skipper is now a partner in the Chennai franchise with Vita Dani and Abhishek Bachhan.
“As all of you know, I began my sporting activities as a footballer and was a goalkeeper for my school and then shifted to cricket since we didn’t have a wicketkeeper in our team,” Dhoni told reporters on Monday.
“And as a far my association with Chennaiyin FC is concerned, I have always been a big fan of football and Manchester United and I follow English Premier League. It gives immense happiness to be a part of this team and I’m sure, with the kind of players we have in our ranks, we’ll make Chennaiyin FC a great side.”
The Indian skipper is second current player after India vice-captain Virat Kohli (FC Goa) to co-own an ISL team.
Former India greats Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are co-owners in Kerala Blasters FC and Atletico de Kolkata, respectively.
Dhoni feels the way ISL is being organised and the investor interest it has gained could help the football league become as big a hit as the Indian Premier League.
“Why not? When IPL started seven years ago nobody thought it would become such a big event.. It happened only because people supported it. Many important people have been involved in the [football] league, the media is very excited about it and it’s time for the common people to come forward and extend their support. I appeal to all football lovers to come to the stadium and watch the matches because for a player nothing is more satisfying than playing in front of a full house,” Dhoni said.
Noting how important it is to develop football at the grassroots level, he said Chennaiyin FC will focus on more the development of the sport rather than on winning trophies and championships. “It’s important to develop the available talent.
We are still trying to improve our football standards and I think a team can’t make it big unless it has proper development at the grassroots level.
We are fortunate to have some intentionally established players in the team and I’m sure our local players will benefit a lot by playing alongside them,” Dhoni said.
On his choice of the Chennai club, Dhoni said, “As I said my association with CSK for seven years has helped me mingle with the local people and learn their culture. It would have been extremely difficult for me to captain CSK and own a Kolkata, Delhi or Mumbai [football] team at the same time. Given my connect with the city, Chennai was a natural choice. I’m thankful to Chennai for giving me so much love. This city has passion for sports and, from the support CSK has had all these years, I’m sure it will be the same for Chennaiyin FC.”