Indian captain Sunil Chhetri has urged the nation to get behind his club Bengaluru FC as the I-League football champions host Malaysia’s Johor Darul Ta’zim FC in a crucial Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup second-leg semi-final on Wednesday.
“To put it simply, this game will decide if Indian club football can write a new chapter in history or not. We’re on the brink of something special and it’s going to take a determined 90 minutes to set foot where no club from the country has before.”
“But more importantly this is not just about Bengaluru or Karnataka, this is about India. And that is exactly why me and my team-mates have been so vocal about getting the country to rally behind us,” Chhetri told www.the-aiff.com.
Bengaluru played out a 1-1 draw with Johor Darul Ta’zim FC in the first leg match away at Johor Bahru. They will carry an advantage of an away goal in the second leg at the Kanteerava Stadium.
Chhetri, who has been part of many glorious moments in Indian football history both for club and country, put this match up there’ in his list of memorable matches.
“At the club level this game is up there simply because of what we could achieve should things go our way. No club from India have been in a final before, and for us -- in our three years and some months old existence -- to be able to do that will be so special,” he said.
“I’ve won the major trophies with different clubs and I cherish every one of them. But to make the final of an Asian tournament will be up there.”
Chhetri felt the away-goal is an advantage but not a big one.
“It sure is an advantage but not a really big one. If Johor score a goal early on, we’re going to be chasing this game. What the away goal has done is given us the belief that we can go out there, take the fight to the champions and come away with a reward. They are a quality side and will come all guns blazing. We need to stick to our plan and I think we will be alright.”
The club’s Chief Technical Officer Mandar Tamhane told IANS that Bengaluru always aimed to develop Indian football and this game is a testament of that.
“This club was founded with a view to making the kind of difference that betters Indian football and I believe that this game is a result of the process. We are sure that every football fan in India, irrespective of their club loyalties, make it to the Kanteerava as we attempt to put Indian football on the Asian map in a big way.”