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Former football stars praise Bengaluru's AFC Cup feat

Bengaluru, Oct 28 (IANS) Days before Bengaluru FC's Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup final with Iraq's Air Force FC, yesteryear heroes praised the I-League champions efforts in writing a new chapter in Indian football's history.

Bengaluru are the first Indian club to reach the final of any continental competition. They will face Air Force FC in the summit clash on November 5 in Doha, Qatar.

Arumainayagam, who was an integral part of the Indian football team which won the Gold in the Asian Games 1962, sounded euphoric on Bengaluru FC's feat.

"I have no words to express how I felt when the referee blew the final whistle in the second semi-final. In the last three years, Bengaluru FC have established themselves as a footballing powerhouse. Now they have gone one step above to send out a message to the entire Continent," he told www.the-aiff.com on Friday.

"It's the first time an Indian club have gone so far in any continental tournament and I hope they will go all out to win the final frontier as well," Arumainagayam wished the reigning I-League champions.

Former India Skipper Venkatesh Shanmugam said, "Incorporating a corporate team in the I-League fraternity was a masterstroke by All India Football Federation. Just look at the manner it has paid the dividends."

"Bengaluru FC have shown to all as to how a club needs to run. Right from building a Team to create a fan base, they have dug deep to create an outright professionally run football club."

"It's a complete team game and right from the ball boys to the CEO of the Club, everyone is part of the system and very much aware of their respective responsibilities. That's how the system should run, like a well-oiled machine," added the Indian national team's manager.

Narayanswami Ulaganathan, the yesteryear prolific winger from Bengaluru waxed eloquent too.

"I'm really very proud of the fact that a club from my city is going to represent our Nation in Asia -- that too after overpowering the defending champions in the semi-final," he said.

"But the mission is far from being accomplished. Expectations are surging up around them, but they have to keep calm to finish off the business in style."

Arumainayagam also lavished praise on striker Sunil Chhetri for scoring the tie-winner against Malaysia's Joho Darul Ta'zim in the two-legged semi-final.

"Time and again, Sunil Chhetri has proven his worth on the bigger stage. I feel really happy for him. He knows what he is capable of and I hope he delivers in the final."

--IANS

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