Does King Khan even need an introduction? Ever since he honed his 'dribbling' skills in scenic Switzerland at the tender age of 'twenty-something or whatever' in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Shahrukh has been the man to watch out for on the Indian Football scene.
His recent form has been patchy, including an awful stint on the Chennai FC Express and the whole trying out for Vasco FC episode (for the second time after Josh) in the now famous football documentary about failed Goan footballers and what they do post retirment - Dilwale, Shahrukh's career has actually been waylaid by injuries to his massive ego.
It has reached the point where he played through an ACL tear to the Superego for the club Athletico de Fan, only to realise that the whole thing could've been done via CGI and he needn't have bothered showing up in the first place.
As a young lad, Shahrukh showed a lot of promise as part of Mumbai's historic Andheri Academy for broke Actors who can't afford to live in Bandra or Juhu, prompting his then coach and mentor Yash Chopra to tell an interviewer for Filmfare magazine, 'Jab tak woh Kajol ke saath one-two karega, tab tak Yash Raj mein rahega,' ('As long as he can pull off the one-two with Kajol, he will stay with Yash Raj).
Shahrukh, however, had plans of his own. He embarked on a glittering career that has now spanned almost three decades and is counted amongst the game's legends. Opposition players and managers have watched on in awe as he made his first move Pardes (abroad) in 1997 and played there for over two decades as a Harlem Globetrotters-esquely popular, NRI delighting and one dimensional footballer except when he returned home to coach women’s hockey and set up a hydroelectric power station somewhere in Uttar Pradesh while romancing Gayatri Joshi.
Some say this little sojourn home were his best days. Shahrukh accepts this fact stating that being a Milner-ish 6/10 footballer his whole career was totally worth it. “People say I’m that the Badshah, and they do that because no matter Kal Ho Na Ho, Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani.” (People say I’m the King, and they do because no matter whether there is a tomorrow, the heart will always be
Style of Play
The Delhi army brat was not always the best visualizer of the game. The early years had a lot of growing pains, including King Uncle and Dil Aashna Hai, but eventually, the silky midfield maestro found an
acting passing range he was comfortable with. His ascent to superstardom was accelerated due to the time spent with his now long time friend and mate in every sense of the word, Karan Johar.
It may have been under Chopra that Shahrukh first performed his signature celebration; the ‘romance of the underarms’, that wholly visceral moment where he spreads his arms apart, parallel to the ground and tilts his body just a bit so as to be irresistible to any NRI woman approaching menopause, but it was with Johar in his ear that Shahrukh learnt to milk the celebration for all it was worth.
It was about at this time when Shahrukh realised he had become bigger than the sport. It was also about the time he played in football’s greatest ever match, that timeless classic, popularly known to the Indian masses as Mohabbatein, which had a run time longer that Shahrukh Khan’s then teammate at Josh FC, Chandrachur Singh’s, entire career.
Shahrukh is also famous for his
dancing dribbling and opponents have gone on record with horror stories about he destroyed them with his grace and poise, especially when the aforementioned dribbling was set against gorgeous European locales. Famous ex-Milano player, Hritik Roshan once tried copying Shahrukh’s moves and #feels but an injury to his marriage saw him finish his career in Brazil.
To this day, Sunny Deol, widely recognised as India’s best
actor dancer dribbler, believes that Shahrukh at his pomp was a one man show unto himself. He still is if you attend NRI marriages abroad.
Shahrukh’s greatest strength without a shadow of doubt, is marketing. The man sells himself like a Vietnamese woman in the sixties. His football career has been glittering no doubt, but it’s the number of endorsements and his sheer will to turn every team he touches into ‘Something Knight Riders’ that set Shahrukh apart.
A brilliant student of the game, Shahrukh realised very early that his dribbling skills would fade as he aged and as a result, like Ozzy, he screamed ‘All Aboard’ when it came to the endorsement train. As a result, the man is a Brand Ambassador for every product known to man from haemorrhoid cream to zit cream (there's a pattern here somewhere).
A disciple of Sir Alan Pardew, Shahrukh has also emerged as an astute man manager and leader on the pitch. His charismatic style and ‘me-first-second-and-third’ attitude have won over many a dressing room. Always one to give youth a chance, he is famous for passing the ball to young women footballers at least half his age. Truly a magnificent role model.
If you ask his detractors, they will point to the fact that he hasn’t really scored a goal since he played with good mate Farhan Akhtar back in 2011. To his legion of adoring fans around the world, Shahrukh has no weaknesses.
Since we have to discuss his shortcomings here, one can talk about some questionable wardrobe decisions in the late nineties. The spat with prolific forward Salman Khan (read his scout report here) also affected Shahrukh’s career to an extent, but thanks to the power of ‘having a boatload of money and the Red Chillies to do whatever you want’, Shahruks career has never really gotten stagnant.
His greatest weakness has to be the popularity of a certain Superstar of the South and all round nice guy, Rajnikant. Shahrukh has no traction in the Southern part of India, where this
handsome charismatic suave sophisticated superstar of tremendous talent rules the roost. This has perturbed King Khan over the years.
He even tried to pander to the Southern demographic via his stint at Chennai FC Express which had Superstar Rajnikant Norris brought in on a short loan spell but popularity in the South eludes Shahrukh like it did the Mughal Empire.
What Next and the Bottom Line
Even though he won’t admit it, Shahrukh’s time as a footballer is almost over. Most say he will come back as a manager. His natural
Priyanka Kajol Karishma charisma, eye for talent and his close relationship to the Johar Academy for Underage Excellence means that attracting the best talent from around the country will never be an issue for the many who many tout as the next Manager of Partizan Red Chillies FC.
The best young footballers in India already speak highly of the man with 84 caps to his name for Bollywood. “I would love to work with him standing on the sidelines, as I know with him on the pitch, I won’t get to express myself much,” said highly-rated prospect, Tiger Shroff, when asked about what he thought of King Khan.
"I know we can work together. I would love to pick his brain and ask him why he has subjected us to years of substandard fare," replied Chivas Mumbai forward and weight management expert Arjun Kapoor, when asked the same thing.
Perhaps he may never make the move to management and decide to grow as old as possible on the pitch itself. Perhaps one day he will decide that enough is enough and that he cannot pass to young actresses because it just doesn’t look quite right anymore. One thing is for sure though, when he was on the pitch, ‘Shahrukh ko pakadna mushkil nahi, namumkin tha.’ (catching Shahrukh wasn’t difficult, it was impossible).