The Blues have an even record in the ISL finals with a win and loss apiece.
Bengaluru FC are in the middle of a historic 11-match winning streak. The iconic winning streak has led the Blues to the 2022-23 ISL final against ATK Mohun Bagan.
The Blues didn’t start the season in the greatest of fashions, but the form picked up at the turn of the year and the players and coach Simon Grayson have never looked back. Sunil Chhetri’s dropping down to the substitutes bench, the rise of youngsters the likes of Sivasakthi and Rohit Kumar all have played their part in the unbeaten run.
The club has made plenty of headlines know recent times, be it Sunil Chhetri’s ‘controversial goal’ to hand his side the 1-0 win over Kerala Blasters in the eliminator or the impressive semi-final triumph over one of the best sides in the league, Mumbai City FC. But all the roads have led Bengaluru FC to a third ISL final.
Here are the excerpts from Bengaluru FC’s pre-match press conference.
Only English manager to ever win the ISL
Chennayin FC won the ISL in 2017-18 under the leadership of English head coach John Gregory, beating Bengaluru at the Kanteerava in the final. After the win, Gregory said that after 20 years if I will be the only English man to ever win the ISL, I will be a happy man. But Bengaluru manager Simon could become the second English manager to win the ISL. On this matter, Simon Grayson said, “I know John very well, I played with him at Aston Villa, as a coach when he was the manager. It will be nice to be able to achieve that, another English manager to win the ISL trophy. Obviously, it’s not gonna be easy, but we have given ourselves a fantastic opportunity.”
11 successive match winning run
The club head into the final on an 11-match winning run, talking about this the club captain Sunil Chhetri said, “Generally we try not to speak of what we have done before the final, but what we have achieved as a team is outstanding. I think in my 22 years (as a professional footballer), this sort of a run I haven’t been part of it. From where we were, we needed 6 wins and 2 draws in the last 8 games, we won 6 but we were still not qualified. So we had to win the 7th on the bounce.”
“To beat teams like Kerala and Mumbai City FC and to reach the final is outstanding. We are very proud of it. But it goes out of the window if we lose tomorrow (final against ATKMB).”
Long term rivalry
Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan have a long-term rivalry in Indian Football, almost like the ‘El Clasico’ of India. Talking about the rivalry, the club captain replied, “For tomorrow we are not thinking of the rivalry. But in terms of rivalry it won’t be incorrect for me to say that in the last 10 years of our history, our toughest opponents have been Mohun Bagan and ATK Mohun Bagan. Right when we played them from in the I-League, in Federation Cup, in ISL. They have probably been our most cherished opponents and some of the games we have e played against each other have been one of the best for the neutrals to watch and I am sure it will be the same tomorrow. Whatever has happened, whatever the rivalry is it is all in the past and tomorrow is a new game, so that doesn’t hold many contexts for tomorrow’s game. But in the last 10 years in our history, they are probably right at the top.”
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The incredible youth project at Bengaluru FC
Bengaluru FC are currently home to a wonderful youth project. Three exciting youngsters namely Naorem Roshan Singh, Suresh Wangjam, and Sivasakthi Narayanan have all been handed an Indian national team call-up. Club captain Chhetri has praised the youngsters’ form throughout the season. Chhetri stated, “Suresh is not a part of our project, he is someone who came really young to us, but he came to the main team directly, We are really proud of Roshan and Sivasakthi, they are from our project right from the youth development.”
After Durand Cup, we were flying high, and training well. But a lot of the senior players, we couldn’t do what we were supposed to do, but it was not because of lack of hard work, or will but it was just not clicking for a lot of us. But the good part was all of us had our bad phase at that moment and that is why we were losing, But all of us were not doing great what it meant was once we started doing well, we all joined the part, and this where the youngsters (Roshan, Suresh and Sivasakthi and Rohit) come in. They are the ones who pushed the envelope on us, they were the ones who were at training doing really well. Then the rest of team joined in. But if they were not there keeping up the tempo of the training very high, we probably won’t have (reached the final).
Will the finally be more a psychological battle rather than a tactical battle?
Finals are normally decided in decisive moments and through individual brilliance. But many times the final clashes could be over before they even began due to the psychology and the feeling in any particular camp. Talking about this the Blues’ head coach said,
“No, it is what happens on the pitch, not in your head. But I think both teams are in a good place, both teams are confident, it will be basically who earns the right on that pitch, who wants it more, who is going to run more, and who is going to come out on top in every 50/50 challenge, who wants to be the hero.
There is going to be potentially one hero, and I just hope it will be one of the BFC players because that means that we will be lifting the ISL trophy and we will have to give everything we have in our locker to achieve that. Look, Juan (ATK Mohan Bagan head coach) will say exactly the same things to his team, it’s all about who goes out and performs, Play with your head as well as play with your heart, and somewhere down the line you might need a little bit of luck as well.
“The last thing I say to the players right before they go out (before any game), is have no regrets, by the time you wake up the next morning after a big game, you look at yourself in the mirror and you say to yourself that I could not give anymore on that football pitch. Win lose or draw, you can have no qualms or quillers about what you have done the night before. If you wake up and look at the mirror and think I wish I could have run further, tackles more, worked harder, etc etch, then you have a problem with yourself. So my message will be exactly the same tomorrow.”
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