The last time, he touched a football, it won him the Filmfare award for best actor in Telugu. Chiranjeevi was playing a wannable footballer aspiring to represent India in `Vijeta', the Telugu remake of Anil Kapoor-starrer `Saaheb' in 1985.
Thirty one years later, the megastar of Telugu cinema is on the maidan once again, hoping to have a blast with Kerala Blasters. He has put his money where the ball is.
Fellow Telugu bidda and actor Akkineni Nagarjuna will be Chiranjeevi's business partner in this venture, which of course has India's cricketing icon Sachin Tendulkar at the crease.
The two actors have signed up with Tendulkar, pumping in money into the Kerala Blasters franchise. And since it is Kerala, it’s apt to say that the God of Cricket has formed a new football team in God’s own country.
Tendulkar's original business partner was PVP Ventures which owned the majority stake in Kerala Blasters. The two had bought the Kerala football franchise in 2014, with Tendulkar picking up a 40 percent stake. The team did well in the first edition, finishing runners-up.
But things went awry financially after a Rs 30 crore fine by SEBI on PVP Ventures promoter for financial irregularities last year. It coincided with the Kerala team finishing at the bottom of the pile, winning just three of their 14 league matches. Its coach got the boot midway in the tournament. PVP opted to quit and sell its stake in the franchise.
The challenge now is to infuse more cash and fresh energy to aim at a better showing in the next edition of the Indian Super League. As a first step, Kerala Blasters is expected to dump the English in favour of a Spanish coach and Juan Ignacio Martinez is most likely to be hired.
The marketing of the brand is equally important as this has a direct impact on the team’s image While Chiranjeevi and Nagarjuna will bring in added south connect to the Kerala Blasters, industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad who had pumped in money into the construction of the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad is on board as well.
The presence of Chiranjeevi's nephew and Telugu actor Allu Arjun would prove to be a bigger draw in garnering spectator interest. The Telugu-to-Malayalam dubbed versions of his movies are incredibly popular in God's own country, earning him the name of `Mallu Arjun' in these parts.
Kerala Blasters, according to sources, has an annual revenue of $15 million. The word initially was that Tendulkar was looking to seal deals with business houses and celebrities from Kerala.
That did not materialize, thereby forcing Tendulkar to look south-east at Andhra. And to ensure there are no red cards this time, Sachin with his new business partners prayed at the Tirumala temple, before heading to Thiruvananthapuram.
Kerala, along with Bengal and Goa, has been the cradle of Indian football. Having produced legends like IM Vijayan, VP Sathyan, CV Pappachan, players from Kerala at one time were looked upon with awe.
Tendulkar has now committed to the new Left government in Kerala to set up a residential football academy to groom young players. The target is to churn out 100 footballers over the next few years. ``You will have something to smile in a few years' time,'' Sachin promises.
Soccer's gain however, will be Parliament's loss, not that Tendulkar's attendance record in the House has been exemplary. Both Tendulkar and Chiranjeevi are Rajya Sabha MPs who clearly seem to prefer Kerala's backwaters to the backbenches in the House of Elders.