AFC Cup: We have the confidence to reach the quarters – Churchill Brothers’ Balwant Singh
The 2013-14 I-League campaign might be over but Churchill Brothers still have one more game to play this season as they take on Vietnam’s Vissai Ninh Bình in the AFC Cup round of 16 on May 13.
It is a one-legged clash with Vissai Ninh Bình having home advantage but Churchill Brothers’ top scorer Balwant Singh is confident of going through to the quarter-finals.
“We are all expecting a very tough match but we have the confidence to reach the quarter-final. For a long time in the I-League our survival was in doubt but now that we have avoided relegation, the players can fully focus on this AFC Cup game. We did very well to qualify from the group stage and certainly have the potential to progress further,” Balwant told Sportskeeda.
There was a huge contrast in Churchill Brothers’ performances in the I-League and cup competitions. They only survived in the I-League by winning their last match against Salgaocar but lifted the Federation Cup and finished second in their AFC Cup group.
Balwant, who scored the all-important winner against Salgaocar, believes there were many factors behind the club’s struggles in the domestic league.
“It is difficult to point out any particular reason. We had a poor start and then the foreigners were also changed. Midway through the campaign there were also lot of injuries. The important thing is that we have survived now and can look forward to an exciting game in the AFC Cup,” the India international opined.
For Balwant personally it was a great season as he scored 16 goals in all competitions, won his first senior international cap and was also adjudged the FPAI Indian player of the year ahead of India captain Sunil Chhetri by his fellow professionals.
It is a remarkable comeback from the 27-year-old, who hardly featured in the I-League in the two previous seasons due to injuries. The striker though is not getting carried away and wants to get even better.
“I never lost hope and always believed in myself and God. It is an honour to be chosen by all the players but I still have a long way to go in my career. I would like to establish myself in the first eleven of the national team and even when I achieve that, I want to keep improving,” said the former JCT player who has also been included in the five-man shortlist of seniors for India’s 2014 Asian Games squad.
Not surprisingly Balwant is a target of several clubs including the Big Two of Kolkata but the Punjabi lad wants to repay the faith that Churchill Brothers have shown in him.
“It is flattering to receive so many offers but I am fully committed to Churchill Brothers. The club owner, coaches and teammates supported me even though I was out of top level action for two years. I am indebted to Churchill Brothers and want to remain here,” he concluded.