Bengaluru: To make a mark on the sporting landscape is a huge task but Bengaluru FC have ensured that they will always be mentioned as one of the glittering chapters in Indian football. And they have done so in their fledgling four-year history.
What began as passion has turned into a national feeling as the Garden City club has broken down barriers and set new standards. The captain of the ship, owner Parth Jindal, couldn’t be more happy as he discusses the way forward for the club, the Indian Super League, and the ideals and goals that form the backbone of the Men of Steel.
On joining the ISL and effect on the roster
We understand what IMG Reliance is trying to do. They know that BFC has the strongest Indians in the team. The other two strong Indian contingents are in Mohun Bagan and East Bengal but they are not in ISL so their players are available. So if they allow us to keep all the players, 50 percent of the national team will be at BFC. We realise that’s not fair on the other nine franchises.
On the player draft
Foreigners don’t get affected. We will continue to have Johno (John Johnson) and Juanan in the team. We will add some more foreigners to the team. The rule also doesn’t apply to U-21 players so we will be able to retain all U-21 players like Daniel (Lalhlimpuia), Nishu (Kumar) and Zuala (Malsawmzuala). Plus we will also be allowed to retain two or three players. It will still be a big loss. We are staring at the possibility of BFC not having a player like Rino Anto or Eugeneson Lyngdoh. That is a possibility because we can’t keep all of them. It is one year of pain but going forward they have assured us that it will again be a free market post this transition year.
On the team’s achievement in four years
I think we have far exceeded all our expectations. Beyond all the achievements that the club has done, what I’m most proud of is that 11 of BFC players have played for India. That is the biggest achievement. Players like Nishu, Udanta, Rino and Fanai have all received national team call ups.
On the decision to hire Albert Roca
After winning two titles and a Fed Cup, what we realised was we could go for the same mould or we could go for one who has a great pedigree. That’s why we went with Albert.
If you look at the Spanish style of play, their physique is very similar to Indian players. We felt that if we want to get Indian football ahead we need to adopt a different style. We knew that when we were getting Albert in, it’s a completely different style of football. It would take the players some time to adapt and change. We were all pleasantly surprised with the AFC Cup run.
What attracted me the most about Albert is his experience with La Masia (Barcelona’s academy). We had just started our own academy in Vijayanagar and brining the U-19, U-20 players into the first team and then grooming them and making them ready for national team was something that Albert had done with Barcelona.
He had experience of European and Asian football. He was bringing Carles (Cuardet) with him who is young and hungry. It was a good partnership. That’s how we decided to go with him. It was a risky decision because we didn’t know if our players could adapt. Our performances in I-League was testament to that. It took time. But by the end of the season it started to come together. The Fed Cup win and making to the AFC Cup knockouts show its working.
On BFC prioritising the AFC Cup
If we become champions in India and get to represent the country in Asia, BFC is no more just representing Bengaluru. When the goal of the club is to improve Indian football, what better way is there to showcase how it is improving than by showing it in the AFC Cup. We wear blue because Indian (colours) is blue. It’s the biggest priority for us.
On developing Indian talent
The sole reason BFC exists is because we dream that one day India will play the World Cup. As an owner, if I can play a small part in helping India improve, I’ll sleep well at night. When you think of the way Indian football was progressing, clubs have two centre forwards and two centre backs who are foreigners. Of course there are exceptions, but that is the fundamental way.
My dream is to win the league with 11 Indians and we have to make sure that even if we get a foreign defender or striker, the second one has to be Indian. Last year we had Johnson, Juanan, Sandesh Jhingan and Salaam Ranjan Singh. We had two very good Indian centre backs. In attack, we had better Indian strikers than foreigners....