Why Neymar's autographed T-shirt is special for former India cricketer Jatin Paranjpe
The 45-year-old Paranjape worked at a senior position in European football for a sports equipment giant. He interacted closely with several stars, like Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. When he left the job last year, Neymar sent him an autographed Brazil T-shirt. The two had worked on products and campaigns in the run-up to the 2014 World Cup.
"The shirt means a lot to me," says Paranjape, who now runs khelomore, an aggregator of sports coaches and academies across ten Indian cities. "It reminds me of the huge opportunity I got — to work with big stars at possibly the biggest event in sport. Neymar came across as a simple and friendly guy. I was pleasantly surprised to receive the shirt. I have put it up in my current office."
Paranjape, a lef thanded batsman who was a member of Mumbai's Ranji Trophy winning sides, first met Neymar in Barcelona in 2 012. "What struck me about him is how slight he looked. He looked like a schoolboy in seventh or eighth grade," Paranjape says. "But on the field he is the opposite – strong, fast and tenacious. He's a leader."
Neymar's obsession with the minutiae of his gear reminded Paranjape of teammate Sachin Tendulkar. Even though many of his discussions were with Neymar's father, who also manages the player's career, Neymar's passion for the sport shone through. "He was always tinkering with things and having discussions with our shoemakers," says Paranjape.
Some critics have criticised Neymar's move from Barcelona to PSG as one dictated by money, not football logic. Paranjape disagrees with this notion. He says, "From a football standpoint, Neymar has moved from a team where he was the No. 2 player (behind Lionel Messi) to one where he will be the No.1 player. From a fan and marketing standpoint, football now has one more power centre in PSG."