If anyone had claimed at the start of the season that Bengaluru Football Club would win the I-League,people would have laughed him off. But the new entrant of the I-League has achieved something which was beyond imagination as the boys from the Garden City have won the I-League in their first appearance in the League.
I-League has never left the shores of the Goa since the inception. With the emphatic over Dempo in Goa, Bengaluru Football Club has become the first non Goan club to win I-League. With this win Bengaluru FC will now represent India in AFC competition. AIFF wanted to give I-League a pan India look and JSW Group was given the opportunity to start the club in Bengaluru. JSW Group launched the club in mega fashion in the KSFA stadium on 20th July 2013. The magnitude of the launch was giving clear indication that the club was not just here to make the numbers. The management of the club signed young English coach Ashley Westwood and Pradyum Reddy was given job to assist the Englishmen.
Careful Selection Of Players
Bengaluru Football Club had very few options available to sign at the start of the season. Most of the club already had roped in some of the big names in Indian Football. The Club management had a tough task in hand to sign players smartly. The team management able to get the signature of the Indian national team captain Sunil Chettri. Signings of Chettri was the only marquee signings for the club.
The management led by Ashley Westwood and Pradyum Reddy along with team consultant Mandar Tamhane put their faith on young player who were warming bench of the other clubs. The likes of Rino Anto, N. S Manju, Thoi Singh, who had almost lost the hope of getting first team football on a regular basis were signed. Youngsters like Siam Hanghal, Bhaikhechoi, Pawan Kumar, who may not have got regular match were given opportunity to showcase their talent.
Even the foreigners in teams were considered to be leftovers. The Likes of Sean Rooney and Liberian International Jhony had a rather bad season for Salgacoar and Dempo SC respectively. These groups of players hunger to succeed are considered to be one of the reasons of the spirited Bengaluru FC performance. They had lots to prove to their old clubs and these players shown that if you give them the opportunity they have capability perform at the highest level.
Freedom To Coach Ashley Westwood
The head coaches in I-League are one who rarely has freedom even to sign players. The club officials are the one who sign the players and club has to work with them. Most of the time team suffers miserably because players cannot adjust to coach requirement and coaches get sacked. The coaches are always made scapegoat for the team, which he has nothing to say in the signings of the players.
Bengaluru football club management must have identified the flow in the Indian football and gave full freedom to Ashley Westwood. The gaffer was given full responsibility to bring in support staff he wanted till hotels he preferred in an away match. There was very less interference from the owners and the results are there to be seen. Ashley Westwood has set high standards in the league and would interesting to see his performance as manager
A Complete Team Effort
The one thing which was clearly visible in the Bengaluru FC performance was that there was no one man show. The players played like a unit and combined well throughout the season. Jhon Jhonson and Curtis Osano playing first time in India was amazing. The Center backs paired well and were rock solid for the club. They used their experience of playing in the English leagues very well in India. The presence of the duo gave solidity at the back for the club.
Sunil Chettri playing in unusual position had a problem at the start of the season, but then he combined well with Robin Singh and Sean Rooney up front. He scored lots of goals this season and which is something will bring smiles on Indian football fans. The team had many young players, the likes Caldeira, Siam Hanghal and some of the players like Rino, Pawan Kumar flourished in Bengaluru FC. The freedom of playing without any pressure helped these players to give their best. The happy team environment off the field also played its part in the team performance.
When The Blue Go Marching
Bengaluru Football club not just have set an example on the field, but also off the field. The marketing team of the club has done a wonderful job. Every home game of the Bengaluru FC attacks crowd in excess of 7K. I-League was criticized for the lack of the attendance in the stadiums but Bengaluru FC has given hope that if club put little effort in marketing there is huge possibility of bringing good crowd in the stadium. The USP of the Bengaluru FC fans is that they bring an exciting aura to the game. The Chants and atmosphere in the stadium make you run an extra yard on the field. Bengaluru FC fans are one of the reasons to make this club so special during this season I-League.
A Role Model To Follow
The Professional approached show by Bengaluru FC on and off the field has been amazing. The use of science in enhancing performance of the players has shown the results on the field while innovating ways of engaging with the fans have shown its results of the field. The Rest of I-League clubs have to immolate club like Bengaluru fc if they want to see an Indian football rise to a higher level. It will be a challenge for the club for next season and it will be also interesting to see if they could maintain same level of performance in coming years.