Hyderabad: The late Dilip Kumar, also known as the first Khan of Bollywood, was not just a legendary thespian of the Hindi silver screen, but also a big fan of cricket and football. Where football was concerned, he made it a point to be present at several important matches and encouraged the players by exchanging a few words with each one of them. He had a soft corner for Hyderabad footballers whose skills and style he admired greatly. Whenever he came across a player from Hyderabad, he would offer a few words of friendly advice.
Recalling his meetings with Dilip Kumar, former Indian team Captain and Coach Shabbir Ali told siasat.com that the famed film star was always ready to interact with sportsmen and meet them despite his busy schedule as the topmost film personality of those days. He also donated trophies and offered cash prizes on several occasions.
“Since Dilip Kumar Saab lived in Mumbai where the Rovers Cup was the biggest football fixture of those days, the organisers would keep two seats permanently vacant for Dilip Kumar and R D Burman at the famous Cooperage Stadium. These two celebrities would often turn up to see big teams in action and they would come without any prior notice, thereby catching everyone by surprise. As soon as they entered the stadium, the attention of the spectators would be drawn towards them and for a few minutes, the action on the ground would be forgotten,” recalled Shabbir Ali.
“Dilip Kumar would often be present to watch us playing. Despite his busy schedule, he managed to arrange his commitments to make sure that he attended the final stages of the Rovers Cup tournaments. He was a much sought after Chief Guest at many functions but never failed to turn up for sports events. His heart lay in sports,” said Shabbir Ali.
“The first time I met him was when he was invited to a match as the Chief Guest. I was his biggest fan. I loved to watch his superb acting. All my teammates rushed to have their photos taken with him. But since I do not like to push myself forward, I held back. I have great respect for Dilip Kumar Saab but I didn’t want to run to him for a photo,” said the former India striker who has also interacted with many sports celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, Diego Maradona, and film stars Raj Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty.
Victor Amalraj, another well known footballer, also remembers his meetings with the superstar of Bollywood.
“Many people do not know that Dilip Kumar used to play football when he was a student. That is why he understood the finer nuances of the game so well. The questions that he asked us about the game showed that he had a good grasp of the strategies of football. He was also a humble and gentle person. His courteous manners, chaste Urdu and polished English awed everybody but he remained approachable and humble,” said Amalraj.
“In the course of my career as captain of all the three big clubs of Kolkata, I had the opportunity to meet many famous people such as R.D. Burman, Jalal Agha, Mithun Chakraborty and also Dawood Ibrahim (who used to always wear a cap and dark glasses). But it is my interaction with Dilip Saab that I remember most. He used to always be dressed in spotless white suits and once when he saw me scoring a goal, he told me after the match: “Sabaash. Bahut achcha goal kiya.” I was thrilled to hear these words from my idol. We sportsmen will miss his presence and his encouragement,” said Amalraj.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects.