Dubai: For those who have seen the Bollywood biopic of Mahendra Singh Dhoni may care to remember that he had actually started off as a goalkeeper in school football - and it was keeping in supreme reflexes in mind that he was tried out as a wicketkeeper in a school game.
His passion for football, according to Indian national team striker Jeje Lalpekhlua who has been an integral part of Chennaiyin FC in the Hero Indian Super League, had not left him even at the peak of his career.
A day after ‘Captain Cool’ announced his International retirement, Jeje took a trip down memory lane to speak about the training sessions where ‘Thala’ Dhoni would join them for a training session.
“He just loves to play football. If he is around, whenever we’re playing a small-sided game during training, he’d always try to join us,” said Jeje with a smile. “Of course, he’s played football when he was a kid and you can gauge how much he still enjoys playing even now,” Jeje stated. “He was always so good with the ball at his feet.”
“He may have been a goalkeeper back in school. But when he’s playing, it was evident that his skills with his feet have not left him. He’s quite good at football, to be honest,” Jeje continued.
The much-decorated Indian skipper, a stakeholder with Chennaiyin FC, even offered tips to players on how to deal with injuries. “In one of the Hero ISL matches I suffered a cramp and had to limp out. After the match he came down to me and mentioned about some of his teammates in the cricket team who also suffered from cramps, and ways they dealt with it,” he remembered.
Anirudh Thapa, another Chennaiyin FC player, told the AIFF.com: “He used to come whenever we had a team lunch. He stayed back to talk to the boys and share about his learnings. He’s a very down to earth guy,” Thapa maintained.
Edwin Sydney Vanspaul, a latest addition to the Chennaiyin FC squad and a huge fan of Dhoni, described how the city lives and breathes every moment that the icon is in Chennai.“People here are just crazy about him. They may have jobs and other responsibilities with their family, but if MSD is in town and Chennai Super Kings have a training session, they would all head to the stadium, just to watch them practice,” laughed Edwin.
“And when MSD comes out to bat in the nets, these guys just go bonkers. It’s like when Cristiano Ronaldo goes for a training session in Portugal or Spain.”