The Blues have named five young and new faces in their squad for the continental campaign.
Bengaluru FC are set to embark on a new continental journey as they will face Nepal’s Tribhuwan Army Club in the second preliminary round of the AFC Cup. The Blues are aiming to get past the Nepalese side which is their first hurdle before the playoffs to actually get into the AFC Cup group stages.
The Blues had their worst Indian Super League campaign this time around as they finished in the seventh position and made several changes throughout the season. Now they have a new coach in Marco Pezzaiuoli and under him, they will look to find their form at the continental level. In terms of changes, they have already roped in Gabonese centre-back Yrondu Musavu-King to strengthen their backline. He will look to man the defence alongside Spanish veteran Juanan. Filling in for the AFC quota is Erik Paartalu who will make his presence felt in midfield as Cleiton Silva will be vested with the responsibility to find the back of the net consistently.
Other than the four foreigners, the Blues have an exciting spread of players all over the roster for the AFC Cup 2021. While the limelight is still on the foreigners and experienced Indians such as Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan and others, the Blues have also picked five players from their junior team. The youngsters have been rewarded for their exceptional performances at the BDFA Super Division.
The most talked about player has to be Bengaluru FC ‘B’ team forward N Sivasakthi. He was formerly at Raman Vijayan Soccer Schools (RVSS) where he earned a lot of plaudits for his goalscoring exploits. Sivasakthi continued his performances for the Blues’ junior side in the BDFA Super Division where he finished as top scorer with 14 goals and seven assists to his name. He is someone who relishes playing on the shoulders of the opposition defenders and his agility and goalscoring instincts make him a prodigious talent. The 19-year-old who hails from Tamil Nadu is known for his exceptional dribbling abilities and ball control and looking at his talent, the Blues have shown trust in his abilities. He will be a player to look out for the Blues in their continental run.
“He looks lanky and you would think he gets pushed off the ball a lot, but Shiva has the kind of core strength that gets him past even the heaviest challenges. What’s more important is that he has the raw talent, drive and desire to match that,” BFC ‘B’ head coach, Sandesh Bhoite explained about the prolific young forward.
Apart from Sivasakthi, his partner in crime at the BDFA Super Division, Akashdeep Singh has also made the cut. The young forward from Punjab has been the Robin to Sivasakhti’s Batman and therefore we can say that he has earned his strides. Akashdeep has learned the ropes from the Bengaluru U-18 side under the guidance of Naushad Moosa and has carried forward his attacking instincts to the BDFA Super Division and now has earned his maiden call-up for the Bengaluru FC senior team.
Next up, is the inspiring young custodian Sharon Sivan who was on the verge of hanging up his boots after a few bad performances as a striker. The Malappuram-born goalkeeper was once asked to play between the sticks because of his height and from there he has not looked back. Sivan will now be sharing the same dressing room as Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Sunil Chhetri and it is a big thing for a youngster who started from humble beginnings. It will be interesting to follow the journey of the young custodian, but earning his first call-up for Bengaluru FC is a moment of pride for Sivan.
While he waits for his opportunity the young custodian understands that patience is key especially when there are far more veterans fighting for the same spot in the team. But he is confident to grab his chance when it comes his way. “There are so many goalkeepers, in the country and abroad, who are in their mid-twenties and still waiting for a run of games. This is a position that really tests one’s resolve. But I am patient. Some keepers come into the limelight only because the first-choice keeper had an injury or picked up a suspension and it’s all about grabbing that opportunity with both hands and making the best of it,” the youngster said in an interaction with the club’s official website.
Versatile midfielder Muhammad Inayath is another player who has earned his maiden call-up to the senior team for his performances. The 21-year-old who previously plied his trade for the Indian Navy is slightly more experienced than the others and that may help him. His performances at the BDFA Super Division were lauded and hence he has been included in this team. Inayath also scored the winner against Kickstart FC in their last match at the domestic league. He is an exciting talent who can play in various positions in midfield to attack and it will be interesting to see how Pezzaiuoli uses these players.
The last time Bengaluru FC did well in the AFC Cup, they had a stellar campaign from Eugeneson Lyngdoh who controlled the midfield and pulled the strings. This year again they have another Lyngdoh in their ranks, Damaitphang Lyngdoh who hails from a tiny village called Umlyngka situated in the East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya. Although diminutive in stature, the youngster takes inspiration from his more experienced namesake. The youngster has shown exceptional ball control, great composure and a few skills which are way beyond his years.
Speaking about the 17-year-old midfielder, Bengaluru FC U-15 head coach Ajay Chorge heaped praise on his technical ability. He spent a season with the U-15s before going up the ladder. “Damait is only 5’1’’, but technically he is so good that it doesn’t make a difference. When he joined us, we knew we had a quality player on our hands, because he doesn’t let anything come between him and what he wants – on the field or off it. He is aggressive despite his frame and grasps any position you ask him to play in. As a player, he is also very disciplined, respectful and is a very good listener, which is an important aspect,” Chorge told Bengaluru FC official website.
So it will be exciting to see how young Lyngdoh performs among the big boys and only time will tell whether in future we will see him manning the midfield just like elder namesake.