Bengaluru FC have always been an overachiever of sorts when it comes to I-League clubs. In its short history of three years, the club has become a benchmark for consistency, winning two out of three I-league titles and missing out on a third narrowly.
However, on Wednesday, the Blues achieved what no other club has ever done in the history of Indian football .
The defending I-League champions produced a brilliant performance at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru to defeat Malaysian club Johor Darul Ta’zim 3-1 in the semi-finals of the AFC Cup. As a result, they became the first Indian club to reach the final of the continental competition after Dempo (2008) and East Bengal (2013) faltered to cross the final four stage on previous occasions.
Talking to HT about the importance of the victory, Bengaluru FC midfielder Eugeneson Lyngdoh said, “It is a great boost to Indian football – from the amateur level to the professional one. It is also a great achievement for the club as well as all the people associated with Bengaluru FC.”
“This victory is a huge step forward for Indian football and thanks to this win, we have now made a mark on the continental scene”, he added.
The victory could not have come at a better time for Indian football as the I-League is struggling to maintain its position as the top football league in the country and the cash-rich Indian Super League (ISL) is gradually losing its shine. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) has been talking about a possible merger between the two leagues for some time now, but nothing fruitful has come out of the discussions. As a result, Indian football is stuck between two leagues that are neither a financial success nor a lucrative attraction for football fans around the country.
Bengaluru FC, however, appears to be the welcome exception to the gloomy situation of football in India. The defending I-League champions have been a force to be reckoned with in the AFC Cup till now and their success in the tournament is a clear indication that I-League clubs can still pack a punch. The team has thrived under the guidance of manager Albert Roca and after this victory, it won’t be a stretch to say Bengaluru FC is the new symbol of hope for all Indian football fans.