When you look through the pages of success that Bengaluru FC have written in their brief but trophy-laden history, it’s easy to see the culture of the club which stands out among the contenders and pretenders of Indian football.
They have that mentality, that never-say-die attitude and the ability to find that motivation to achieve again. They say the hardest thing is not to get to the summit, but staying there. And BFC have done it better than most.
But after a season that ended their run of having won silverware every year of their existence, this off season will bring a new challenge. One in which they have to re-group, rebuild and go again.
And by the looks of it, it has started already.
“To put it very simply, it’s been a season of learning,” says captain Sunil Chhetri, the living, breathing embodiment of the club’s ethos. “It’s the first time in seven seasons that we haven’t won a silverware and that should tell you about the consistency of the club. Yet, we are mature enough to understand that there will be a time, a season when we won’t have anything to show for at the end, but the lessons are what we keep with us as we look to build again.”
Chhetri has carried, and written, the club’s glittering CV and expectations on his shoulders with deceptive ease.
Perhaps that explains the over-reliance of the team on their talismanic captain who has time and again dragged them out of deep waters.
This season too, it was the 35-year-old who finished as the club’s top scorer with nine goals in the Indian Super League. He also made an impressive, but ultimately unsuccessful cameo, in the AFC Cup qualifying play-off second leg loss against Maziya S&RC.
“There were times when the fine margins went our way often. This year, it didn’t. You have to accept the way things pan out, but more importantly, you have to know where you faltered and fix it,” said Chhetri, who is practicing social distancing during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
“It turned out to be one of those seasons where we just couldn’t stick the ball in the back of the net when it mattered,” he continued. “What was frustrating was that we were creating the chances. I’ve taken a look at myself to see where I’ve failed and I’m sure the rest of the squad is mature enough to do the same. Defensively, we were a notch above the rest.”
While questions have been asked about the head coach Carles Cuadrat for the performance this season, the Indian captain was also effusive in his praise. The Catalan tactician, lest we forget only in his second year in the role, had a tough season with injuries to foreign players and lack of form to the normally-dependable Indians.
“The coach has shown some unbelievable calm through the season and that’s credit to him. We had so many hurdles that made things that much tougher. He’s been with the club for four seasons (two as assistant coach) and knows what he is doing. That is very reassuring for the dressing room,” said the Indian captain.
“There was a sense of disappointment, but it has been overcome with the will to succeed again,” Chhetri signed off.