'A sportsman would have been a much better choice. Someone like Abhinav Bindra, who is the first Olympic gold medal winner for us.'
'No shortage of real sportsmen in this country.'
Discarded India batsman and Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir slammed the appointment of Bollywood superstar Salman Khan as 'goodwill ambassador' of the Indian contingent for the Rio Olympic Games, in August.
"Look I believe in that as well, especially if there is no shortage of real sportsmen in this country and people have done some massive things in this country. I am for the country as well, I am for Olympic sports. I would have been more happy if someone like Abhinav Bindra or someone (sportsperson) had been made the brand ambassador,” said Gambhir, in Mumbai on Monday, at the launch of Sansui’s new Curve 4K Ultra HD LED TV series.
Salman's appointment has snowballed into a controversy, with many sportsperson, including star wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt and legendary sprinter Milkha Singh, criticising the decision even as the Indian Olympic Association and some other athletes backed it.
The IOA, which faced a lot of flak following the controversial appointment, later explained it would also rope in icons from music, cricket and other sports to motivate the athletes.
"We are very happy and thankful on Salman's offer to support Olympic Sports in this country. This association is only a gesture and does not include any monetary consideration," IOA secretary-general Rajiv Mehta said.
"...our key objective of bringing him on board is to draw maximum attention from the masses, due to which there will be more eyeballs and viewership, which will eventually result in popularizing Olympic sports in the country. We may appoint more icons from other walks of life, like music, cricket, art culture and Olympic sports etc," he added.
Yogeshwar, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, said Salman has done nothing to merit such an appointment. He believes a sportsperson would have been more appropriate for the position.
'Sportspersons like P T Usha and Milkha Singh strived hard for the nation during difficult times. But what has this ambassador done in sports.
'What will happen by the appointment of an ambassador? If you had to do this drama, then why not appoint a sportsperson?' he asked. 'The country needs medals, not sponsors.'
A livid Gambhir, who was part of two World Cup-winning squads, -- the World T20 in 2007 and the 50-overs World Cup in 2011, seconded Yogeshwar’s opinion.
He said sportspersons do not need any kind of publicity by hiring movie stars since their performances speak for themselves.
"I personally feel that sportsmen do not need publicity; the sportsmen do the job for the country because that’s their passion. They play sport because they want to do something for their country. Movies made on sportsmen and all that kind of stuff does not give any excitement to the sportsmen because a sportsman’s mindset is completely different to other people’s mindset," he stated.
Gambhir, 34, who has played 56 Tests, 147 ODIs and 37 T20Is, said the best choice would have been Bindra -- India’s only individual Olympics gold medal winner, at Beijing in 2008.
"Personally, a sportsman would have been a much better choice. Someone like Abhinav Bindra, who is the first Olympic gold medal winner for us; I thought he would have been the ultimate choice. I have heard someone saying that sportsmen need publicity or sportsmen need Bollywood. My take is completely different; sportsmen do not need any Bollywood star or any film industry connection. It could be the other way around."