In 2013, just a year before the Indian Super League (ISL) was launched, the I-League saw the introduction of a new team — Bengaluru FC. Its owners, JSW Group, decided to start a club and won the bid as per the All India Football Federation’s idea of expansion of the national league by including a corporate team.
While most didn’t think much about it as many clubs were being disbanded at that point, the owners quietly went about their business. They wanted the best and weren’t prepared to settle for anything less, right from their digital team to the background staff.
To reach the final of the AFC Cup in just four years of their existence, something that no Indian club had ever achieved was an unbelievable feat. They may have lost the final by a solitary goal to Iraq’s Air Force Club, but they had done enough to show the world that a club from India is capable of being run professionally and have success.
The Indian football lover too was ecstatic. #BengaluruFC was number one trending on Twitter. Perhaps for the first time, the whole of India was backing one club.
To understand how they managed to achieve so much, one must understand what went into their formative months/years.
When the club was formed, the owners set itself a target of finishing in the top-3 of the I-League in three years’ time. Choosing a city like Bengaluru seemed a gamble as it did not have a glorious history as far as football was concerned. Yes, they did have a decent football culture, but it was nowhere compared to Kerala, Kolkata or Goa for that matter.
You know a team was bound for greatness when they win the league title in their debut season. Or even better, win two titles (2014, 2016) in three seasons. Add to that the Federation Cup in the year (2015) they were minutes away from winning the title. I’m sure the management never dreamed of winning all these titles at the onset. Their quest was professionalism. And professionalism is why they are such a great club, almost single-handedly reinvigorating the football scene in the country. And mind you, that came without the glamour or movie stars.
Their masterstroke was hiring Englishman Ashley Westwood as coach. He instilled in his players a sort of professionalism that was previously unseen in Indian football.
Speaking about the professionalism, Mumbai lad Keegan Pereira, who has been with the club since its inception, told THE TEENAGER TODAY recently, “The secret is that we’re always together. We live close to each other. We eat breakfast and lunch together. We even go out together,” he said.
Not only that, if the players fail to report on time, they have to hefty fines. “It’s not a joke. They actually charge us if we’re late. I mean, they give us all the facilities that are unheard of in Indian football, so the least they expect from us is to be on time.
A simple facility like a heart-rate monitor was something that no teams used earlier. Bengaluru also focused on dietary needs which most players were raving about. Never before had an Indian team ensured that a player eats the right kind of food. Intake of food was monitored and reviewed from time to time. These were small steps in the right direction.