They call him bhau and bantai (brother) fondly in Mumbaiah lingo. “Brotha” Bengaluru FC right back Rahul Bheke is on cloud nine as his 118th minute goal at the finals of the Hero ISL in Mumbai made the difference, and gave Bengaluru FC their maiden Hero Indian Super League title on Sunday evening! It is also the BFCs sixth title in six seasons.
The Mumbai lad, who netted in the last few minutes of extra time gave the tentative and scrappy match against Goa FC a flourishing finish. He is considered among the most effective wing backs in the country. Hardworking, and very committed, the 28-year-old Rahul is undoubtedly thrilled, “I am feeling great, it was such a memorable occasion and season for BFC. This is also the first goal for me in the ISL. The team was patient, and kept at our own style of football. I am so grateful. The BFC fans are one of the best fans I know. In fact, more people know me in Bengaluru than in my home town Mumbai.”
Rahul celebrated the win with his parents, and he says a silent thank you to his early training. “I started football at a very young age, and my coach Sunil Poojari at my school St Augustine High School in Mumbai played a huge role in my career. He would always guide me and critique to hone my skills as a winger. Infact, he sent me an old picture of a late winner at an earlier game at the Subroto Cup when I netted this last minute goal!” smiles Rahul.
After netting the winner, as BFC fans let out a sigh of relief at the till-then goal less and lack lustre match, Bheke celebrated. “We move on from here now. I would like to make it into the national team, and try and win matches for the team,” he adds.
His skipper Sunil Chhetri has always been a source of immense inspiration for Bheke. “Sunil is the best captain any team can have. He is a leader, and a legend. He has always been there to guide and help us,” says the December born lad. BFC head coach Spaniard Carles Cuadrat was thrilled at the Hero ISL title for his boys, and it might just have been the space and creative lease that he endowed Bheke with, that helped Rahul head the winning goal.
The Mumbaikar whose favourite footballer is Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi, hopes to let his footwork and game do the talking. Ask him about how the champions of the ISL 2019, BFC, have no home ground as we speak, and he says, “I have no idea about that.”
Playing in front of his home crowd in Mumbai will always be special to Bheke, who loves listening to songs by the Mumbai-based Divine before a match to get him into the groove. From the looks of it, it seemed to have worked, beautifully....