South Indian Football lovers were deprived of top flight action for a while now. The arrival of Bengaluru FC, in the Garden City is going to be a breath of fresh air for those football lovers. Their hunger to watch I-League, after Viva Kerala and HAL became history are soon set to be quenched when the Garden City hosts the national club of India on September 22. Bengaluru FC had played a goal-less draw against Indian Football Team before the SAFF Championships. If that performance is an indicator, the new entrants are capable of turning the table upside down with their youthful agression and international flavour.
GoalKeeper: Bruno Colaco, Pawan Kumar, Ricardo Cardozo
To have a safe pair of hands to protect the goalposts can be a great confidence booster to any team. In Bruno Colaco and Pawan Kumar, Bengaluru FC has two exciting young prospects battling it out to make that spot their own. Bruno Colaco was instrumental in Sporting Clube De Goa’s change in fortunes last season and will be the favourite to be the first choice. The 21-year-old custodian, has only half season’s experience in I-League, but he had pulled off some amazing performances for the Flaming Orange and is expected to grow with time. Punjab lad Pawan Kumar has reached the new entrants via JCT, Air India and Salgaocar but has only one appearance under his belt in I-League. He will be expected to provide cover and competition for Colaco. The third keeper in the squad is Ricardo Cardozo who is yet to make a big mark in Indian Football.
Defence : John Johnson, Curtis Osano, Keegan Perriera, Vishal Kumar, Lalrozama Fanai, Rino Anto, Don Bosco Andrew
The International flavour brought by John Johnson and Curtis Osano will play a pivotal role in Bengaluru FC’s fortunes in their inaugural season. A rock solid defence is essential to thwart the threat of opposition attacks and the responsibility will be mostly lying on the foreign pair. Their versatility to play across defence and midfield positions and experience in foreign conditions will be an added asset which might help to get the best out of Vishal Kumar, Rino Anto, Lalrozama Fanai and Keegan Perriera. If the foreigners can acclimatize to the Indian conditions faster, the lack of an experienced Indian presence will not be a problem for them.
Pailan Arrows prospect Vishal Kumar will be expected to play his part in central defence. Keegan Perriera, who failed to establish himself at Salgaocar will be expected to stake his claims for a spot in left back role. While versatile Kerala defender Rino Anto will be hoping to kickstart his career after opting for Bengaluru FC ahead of Mohun Bagan AC. India U-23 prodigy Lalrozama Fanai will also have high expectations after briefly breaking into Mohun Bagan squad last season and will be hoping that the move down the south will work in his favour. Local player Don Bosco Andrew will be looking to grab the openings which comes his way, increasing the competition for places.
Midfield : Johny Menyonger, Thoi Singh, Malemngamba Metei, Gurtej Singh, Sampath Kuttimani, Siam Hangal, Darren Caldeira, Shankar Sampingiraj, Niroshan Mani, Amoes
In Johny Menyonger, Bengaluru FC has an experienced foreigner to act as the fulcrum of their midfield. The JSW backed team will be pinning their hopes on the Liberian International to stabilise the team in country’s top flight football. Thoi Singh, Gurtej Singh, Melmngamba Metei, Darren Caldeira are all in the U-25 bracket looking for a break through in I-League. Apart from Gurtej, who made his debut in I-League last season for champions Churchill Brothers, all others are novices in I-League and will be looking forward to impress in the chances coming their way. Sampath Kuttimany, who previously plied his trade for HAL, Mumbai FC and Pune FC is the most experienced local midfielder in Bengaluru FC ranks. Further local flavour is added in the form of Shankar Sampingiraj, Niroshan Mani, Amoes and Siam Hangal.
Forwards : Sunil Chettri, Sean Rooney, Robin Singh, Karan Sahney
Bengaluru FC’s strike force has the firepower to destroy any opposition in I-League. Leading from the front will be Indian Football team skipper Sunil Chettri, and further options are available in the form of Sean Rooney and Robin Singh. Sunil Chettri is undoubtedly their prized capture, and he will be looking to get back to goalscoring ways after his below par performances in the SAFF Cup. Robin Singh was preferred over Sunil Chettri in the finals, but the latter also failed to find the net and will be looking to make amends in the I-League campaign with Bengaluru FC to cement his spot in the national team. Australian striker Sean Rooney, failed to set the I-League alight during his stint with Salgaocar last season. He will be hoping to establish himself in India this season. Karan Sawhney completes the strike force of the newly formed team.
Bengaluru FC may be short of experience and quality personnel in other departments, but their strike force seems to be up for the task with Sunil, Robin and Sean competing for the slots upfront. If they can deliver the most vital aspect of a football game, then the Garden City fans will be up for a treat in the coming seasons.
To have a tactician who emerged from the famous Manchester United academy and was an Assistant Manager at Blackburn Rovers underlines the statement of intent from Bengaluru FC. This is Westwood’s first attempt as a head coach, but his playing experience with various British club is expected to come handy for the Bengalurians. In Pradhyumn Reddy, Bengaluru FC do have an assistant familiar with the Indian conditions. If the team can get the best out of the Westwood and Reddy, Bengaluru FC can pull of some surprises in the very first season itself. The relegation free status will give the coach a chance to flex his muscles, and their revruitment policy has shown a purpose to promote youth. If they can deliver the results, it will be considered as one of the good things to happen to Indian Football.
The expectations won’t be high for a new team in I-League, especially when a club has relegation free status for the first three seasons. But Bengaluru FC are planning to make a bold statement at the start itself, with their player acquisitions they have made it clear that they are not here to make the numbers. To lure Indian Football Team skipper to join a newly formed team is not a simple task, neither is bringing in a manager and players from English football. But the squad looks very thin and short of experience in most of the departments. Still with their strike force, Bengaluru FC are expected to make it to the top 10 in I-League 13/14 season. It will be also interesting to see what efforts the club makes to build a fan-base in a highly populated city which is itching to have a football club to identify itself with.
I-League – Top 10 Finish