Bengaluru FC’s achievement of becoming the first Indian team to reach the final of the AFC Cup has put India on the map of Asian football according to club captain Sunil Chhetri, but he also added that there is still work to be done.
Chhetri was the scorer of two goals in the semifinal second leg played at Bengaluru’s Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday. Bengaluru FC won the match 3-1 to beat Malaysian giants Johor Darul Ta’zim and progress to the final with an aggregate semifial sore line of 4-2 across both legs.
“We’ve set foot where no other Indian club has and that should tell you how big this moment is,” Chhetri told HT via email on Thursday.
“We’ve put India on the Asian map but there’s still a major part of the job left to do. It’s good what we’ve achieved but we can’t stop here,” he said in continuation.
In the lead up to the match, Bengaluru FC head coach Albert Roca summed up the momentous occasion by stating, “This could be special for Indian football”.
Previously, Indian clubs Dempo and East Bengal had only gone as far as the semifinals in 2008 and 2013 respectively.
The fact that the Bengaluru club reached the AFC Cup final by beating the defending champions adds to their achievement.
“The message is simple – we have what it takes to compete with the best in the continent,” was how Chhetri summed up the victory over Johor.
“This will definitely be remembered as an important milestone in Indian football history and the best part is that we have the chance to go one step further,” he said.
Bengaluru will now face Iraqi club Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya at the Saoud bin Abdulrahman Stadium in Al-Wakrah, Qatar, in the final on November 5.
Before the second leg on Wednesday, Chhetri had sent out a personalised request to fans to support the team while Bengaluru FC sent letters to rival I-League clubs which were reciprocated with good wishes. The captain felt the show of support was an important aid to their victory.
“The support that poured in from all quarters was unreal and reading all the messages, posts and tweets gave us so much of confidence. The whole nation was behind us and we delivered. Now we’ll do this one more time!” he said in summation.