Bangalore welcomes I-League

Bangalore welcomes I-League

At 4 pm on a glorious Sunday, Bangalore football bade farewell to its black and white past.

For a city that boasts of a great footballing legacy, Bangalore had slipped badly on the national stage in recent times but, on Sunday, signs of a fresh life were apparent as the newly formed Bengaluru Football Club (BFC) made its entry into the I-League.

BFC drew their opener against Kolkata’s Mohun Bagan 1-1 at the Bangalore Football Stadium, but this was a day when the result took the back seat. Fans came in droves for their first taste of I-League since the 2011 season at the end of which the local outfit, Hindustan Aeronautics Sports Club, was relegated from the top division.

The dull environs of the venue had been transformed into a cauldron of colour and the spectators cheered on the new entrants. BFC’s English coach Ashley Westwood urged the supporters to make themselves intimidating to the opposition teams.

“Let’s try to make this stadium, home of Bengaluru FC, a fortress and an intimidating place to visit for all away teams and supporters,” he said.

The fans seemed eager to toe Westwood’s line. Nitin Fernandes, a 22-year-old who has seen HASC’s matches in Bangalore, said he was pleased with BFC’s start.

“To see so many fans, it’s really good. It shows that BFC are going in the right track and I hope it continues.”

Praveen Ramesh and Anuj Venkatesh, two 17-year-olds, were all praise for the club. “This is the first time that we are watching football inside a stadium and we must say that the buzz the crowd created was electric.”

The effect of European football on the younger generation was evident as many turned out wearing colours of their favourite teams in the English Premier League, including that of Arsenal and Manchester United.

Expats have always looked out for a share of sporting action and many a foreign face was visible amid the crowd. Jorn Rohde, a German who supports Hamburg in the Bundesliga, said he was pleased by what he saw. “This is a promising beginning but I hope there is more to come,” he said.

There was big demand for BFC flags and whistles, while the official BFC shop did brisk business. Given that there were more people outside wanting to get in rather than vice-versa, this was a heart-warming beginning.

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