MUMBAI: For the boys from Mali, India is a faraway land, but they share a special bond with this country. They are ardent movie buffs and their favourites are from Bollywood. The boys in the FIFA U-17 World Cup team religiously wait for the first Wednesday of every month. Not for practice, but for a glimpse of their favourite Bollywood movies aired on the national television channel.
Not surprisingly, the superstars of Indian cinema — Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan — top their list. But, despite being in Mumbai, they have not been able to watch movies. The squad of 21 has been boxed into a tight schedule of training, meal, sleep and training ever since they touched down on October 2. The African champions in the age-group section, Mali are looking forward to another miracle – winning the U-17 World Cup.
“We know a lot about India and Indian culture. Mahatma Gandhi is a world leader and a big influence back home. We follow those principles of peace,” said Tangara Yacouba, the team’s media manager.
Yacouba says that kids love watching Indian movies, but are focused on the job right now. “Back home, we watch a lot of Indian movies and shows, either with subtitles or dubbed. But at the moment, the players’ only concern is food, climate and stadium.”
Whenever the team goes abroad, the most sought-after objects are boots and shoes. “Most of them look out for are the latest edition of shoes worn by (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Lionel) Messi,” smiles Yacouba. “More than half the squad bought them in Abu Dhabi before coming here.”