Happy birthday, Bengaluru FC - finalists at three, the beacon of hope that Indian football needed
Written by: Punit Tripathi
The Blues have established themselves as one of the mainstays of Indian football in their short history.
We’ll get straight to the point – it’s the sixth anniversary of the best Indian club of this decade, inarguably. Bengaluru FC was founded by the Jindal Steel Works Group (JSW) under the aegis of Mr. Parth Jindal – the CEO of the club. The model of professionalism the club has set is an envy to the Indian footballing world, and things haven’t been the same ever since.
Continentally, at least. No Indian club in the past has for four seasons on the trot fought in the AFC Cup, and looked like it meant to really give a go for it. Dempo Sports Club, Pune FC, and East Bengal are recent memories that were sporadic, and weren’t as consistent at that level as the Blues. Reaching the final of the AFC Cup in 2016 showed that the club meant business. Their 1-0 loss to Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya still rings, but the club certainly has moved on.
Having started in the I-league, they brought in former Manchester United youth and Blackburn Rovers coach Ashley Westwood to head proceedings. It meant the club meant business from the onset, and this wasn’t just another CSR activity. With Pradyum Reddy being the man-behind-the-scenes for the knowhow of Indian football, the club took talented but not-ready-for-the-top-level players, mixed them with the stars like Sunil Chhetri and John Johnson, and allowed a specific model of the game to flourish.
And flourish it did. They drew 1-1 in their first-ever game against the mighty Mohun Bagan, and went on to become champions in their debut season. How fitting it was that the best Indian club from this decade confirmed the title after defeating the best Indian club from the last decade, Dempo SC 4-2!
In another revolutionary move, the fans took an open-bus parade from Cubbon Road to the Bengaluru Football Stadium to celebrate the title in European style. It certainly showed that the heart of the club is in the right place – its fans.
The baton had been passed. The big-four of Goan football gave the I-league a miss, and the onus clearly shifted on Kolkata to keep the buzz alive. But alas, most of the noise came from India’s Silicon Valley as the Gandaberunda from the club’s crest kept flying high. They won the Federation Cup twice before it was pushed into oblivion by the AIFF, and returned to win the I-league again. They are currently the holding champions of the Indian Super League, and had won the Indian Super Cup last season.
The cabinet is growing bigger every season, and Sunil Chhetri had said a long-time back that the club envisages to win at least one trophy every season. The No. 11 has worn the arm-band since the club’s inception and his turnaround as a player can also be attributed to this magnanimous, distinct change in Indian football.
The man, and everyone else at the club, vouches for hard work. He’s set massive standards, and those standards will take a beating to be challenged, let alone beaten. Bengaluru FC are back in Asian contention after winning the ISL, and after a hiatus of an year, it will be interesting to see the verve of Indian pride on the continental scene again.
The club, alongside all the good work on the pitch under Spaniard Carles Cuadrat, keeps holding regular meetings with fans to ensure they have a supreme experience with the Blues. The club still organizes regular tournaments to bring the best out of the youth in the city and jersey launches and dramatic announcement on the arrival of players keeps the fans on their toes, excited. West Block Blues, the fan-group, has easily become one of the widely-known names in Indian football.
This club is going places, and we hope it continues to do the same. Khel Now wishes Bengaluru FC a successful sixth! You reached the final of the AFC Cup in your third year, it’s high time to double that feat!
Published: Sat Jul 20, 2019 03:01 PM IST