The Bengaluru FC owner prefers developing more Indian talents at the academy than spending big money on foreigners.
During an Instagram live with supporters’ group West Block Blues hosted by Indian sports anchor Khuri Irani, the CEO of the JSW Group as well as Bengaluru FC owner Parth Jindal opened up about his passion and plans for football in India.
Talking about his favourite BFC game, he said there are two. “The inaugural game of the newly-formed club at the Bangalore Football Stadium against Mohun Bagan, where I had not expected a single fan to show up. But, when I arrived, the stadium was packed. The second one is the AFC cup semi-final win against Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta’zim, when we had a squad value one-fifth of them. Still with (Sunil) Chhetri’s strike we managed to win. The final in Doha was definitely a heartbreak, but we won’t stop until we win it,” he added.
Talking about their first-ever match on 22nd September 2013 Jindal said, “I was in a big shock when Ashley (Westwood) didn’t include Chhetri in the XI. Because he was the biggest name in the squad and we had to fight with Indian giants like East Bengal, Mohun Bagan, Dempo SC and Salgaocar FC to secure his signing.”
“But, the coach had different reasons. So far, Chhetri was playing as a pure striker. Westwood wanted him to play as a left winger, who can drop back to defend too. He felt Sunil was not ready for the role then. But, the way he adapted and evolved his game is definitely worth talking. Now, he is everywhere on the field.”
Further, talking about all the decisions made at BFC he said, “The management and the head coach know football better than me. I make sure my opinion is heard, but I never force them. This season we failed to win a trophy because we didn’t respond well to Miku’s vacancy. We signed (Manuel) Onwu, (Deshorn) Brown but they failed to fill his boots.”
He went on to reveal that Miku’s departure was completely due to financial reasons. “He is expensive and I felt we can no longer afford him,” said Parth Jindal. “I have seen clubs like ATK and Goa spending a lot behind foreigners, but I have taken a call to build a strong Indian lineup. We have to invest in Indian youth. The Indian clubs’ culture of having foreigners as forwards and centre-backs must be changed.”
“When we won the ISL in 2018-19, it answered all the criticism that we had faced when we joined the ISL from the I-League. But, the 2018 ISL final that we lost at home still pains. I will never forget the celebrations from Abhishek Bachchan.” He also gave credit to the ISL, saying, “Because of this (ISL) a lot of names that were unrecognized before are now household names,” he went on to add.
Later, Parth Jindal discussed the format of the game and said, “In India, we have to adapt a cricket-like format to popularise the league. In football, consistency is the key. So the introduction of the league shield is a big step.”
When asked who has been the most impactful player in BFC history, he said, “I would like to take two names. Johno (John Johnson) and Miku. Johno is a fighter. He can play a full game even with a broken hand. His fighting spirit symbolizes Bengaluru FC. While having him in the squad, we had an alternate captain. He is a leader. Even today, I can call him and talk like nothing has changed. At BFC we were a family.”
Talking about the Englishman’s transfer to ATK, Jindal said, “The offers for him were sky-high. A footballer gets a maximum of 15 years where he has to earn for the rest of his life. Keeping that in mind, it’s not fair for me to stop him. You can see he stands at ATK with a lucrative salary. We have contacted the ATK owner regarding his transfer, but they won’t let him go as they have recently won the league with him.”
Interestingly, he also talked about plans to bring back Miku to BFC. “There is a live deal on his table. We have spoken to him, it fully depends on his decision now.”
The club are in talks with a few former BFC players and Parth Jindal feels those signings can drive the fans crazy. “Fans can burn my photo if I don’t get a quality striker next season.” He hinted about his interest in Indian players as a plan to address the new 3+1 foreigners rule that is set to come into effect from the 2021-22 season. “Sahal (Abdul Samad) is the player I can pay any money to bring to the club.”
In addition to that, Parth Jindal also opened up on former coach Albert Roca’s departure from the club in 2018. “Albert Roca’s departure was completely his own decision. As his wife and daughter were at Spain because they couldn’t adjust at Bengaluru, he wished to go back to them. Wherever he stays, he is going to improve the quality of Indian football. Whenever Albert is coming back to the Kanteerava, he is getting a standing ovation,” he stated before also quoting that coaches like Carles Cuadrat, Sergio Lobera and Antonio Habas are the greatest in the ISL.
Talking about all the homegrown talents to have come from the BFC academy, he considers Nishu Kumar as the best among them. “I really went as far as I could, but Nishu moved on,” he said about Kumar’s transfer to Kerala Blasters. He also mentioned Suresh Wangjam as among the top Indian talents at Bengaluru.
Furthermore, speaking about an alternative to the Kanteerava, as they had almost lost it before the 2019-20 campaign, he said, “We had a bid for the redevelopment of Bengaluru Football Stadium, but the contract went to Ozone Group. We had plans to redevelop the ground with a hotel that is capable of hosting the home as well as the away team, a convention centre and a shopping mall.”
But, according to the recent agreement, Jindal feels they won’t face any difficulties in using Kanteerava as their home for at least three years.
Before concluding, Parth Jindal opened up about his dream with Bengaluru FC. “My dream is to win the ISL with 11 Indian players on the field, all of them being national team members. You can call this as my ultimate fantasy.”