The team is as good as its leader, and in Sunil Chhetri, Bengaluru FC are blessed with an excellent leader. One of the best big match players, he came up with a brace to lead his side to a 3-1 win on the night and a 4-2 win on aggregate to become to the first Indian club to reach the AFC Cup finals.
After the game, when asked to sum up what this means to the club, it’s fans or Indian football in general, a jubilant Chhetri replied “To be honest, am just happy right now. I can’t sum it up, as to what it means to Indian football, I am really really happy. There was a lot of talk going into the game, no Indian player had reached the finals before. When Mr Gaffer was giving the speech today, there was no talk about that, we were just thinking about winning the match.”
“Probably now, when we have won, we’ll go back, enjoy a bit and think about what has happened. But as a team, we just went and tried our best to win a football game, and thankfully we did, and now we are looking forward to the finals.”
“When this tournament started, we had this mantra of taking one match at a time, and it remains. We beat the defending champions, and it’s not easy, now we’ve done that. Now, it’s time for the finals, we’ll prepare our best and try our best for the finals also.”
A barce in the semi-finals, he also had a hand in the third goal, earning a free kick leading to an excellent header by Juanan, you would expect him to bask in the glory just a bit. But, when he was asked whether if this was his best performance ever, he promptly credited the BFC team, his teammates and the fans for his performance.
“At BFC, this family, the players are quite spoiled for keeping out foot forward and to keep succeeding. To be very honest, and I don’t want to sound over bossy or over confident, but I expected my team to like this.”
“Starting from our coach to our assistant coach, our goalkeeping coach to Kunal (the Media Manager) to Akash (the Asst. Media Manager), everyone does a lot of hard work on our gameday, on our preparation. So I wasn’t shocked with the way we played, but what happens sometimes is even when you play well you don’t succeed.”
“Thankfully we got the goal at the right time, we went one goal down, and that is when the team showed really really good character. When I say the team, I just don’t mean the eleven the fourteen or the sixteen, I also mean the crowd which was extraordinary, if not for them, we wouldn’t have reacted the way we did. “
“It’s true, that as players, you want to get back as soon as you concede, but if they weren’t there it wouldn’t have been the same. So, I think it’s a combined effort. It wasn’t just the three goals we scored, it was more the way we dominated them.“’
Two I-League titles, a Federation Cup and now an AFC Cup final in just three years of existence, the club captain reiterated the ethos of the club, “The best part of the club, the team associated with it is everyone wants to work hard and wants to improve every day. We don’t know what we are going to achieve tomorrow, but one thing is for sure, we are going to keep working hard.”
The game saw a tactical change by manager Albert Roca, he played Sunil Chhetri on the left as opposed to the number ten position he has been accustomed to when asked if he's happy playing out wide, he promptly replied "I am really happy. When he (Albert Roca) came in, he had a belief system, his style of play was a bit different to what we are used to, but we are ready to take things on board.
"I might have a different mind, Johno (Johnson) might have a different mind, Rino might have a different mind, but on the pitch, we are as good as what he thinks. We have to implement what he thinks, and that's the only way to succeed."
Bengaluru FC will face Al-Quwa Al-Jawiya, the Iraqi club on November 5th for the final of the AFC Cup.
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