Debutant Bengaluru FC wear I-League crown

Debutant Bengaluru FC wear I-League crown

Breathing new life into Indian football, Bengaluru FC created history on Monday, becoming the first debutant club to win the I-League.

In their penultimate match of the season, BFC defeated Goa’s Dempo Sports Club 4-2 in Margao, taking their points tally to an unassailable high of 44. Challengers East Bengal and Salgaocar having fallen behind, it was BFC’s moment to seize and they did with an efficient display that gave no chance to the former champions.

It marked the first triumph for a team from South India in the national league, as also the first time a team from outside Goa emerged victorious in the I-League, which was started in 2007.

Karnataka, once a ceaseless production line of top-class players to clubs in Kolkata, has rarely enjoyed success on the national scene in recent times. ITI’s triumph in the inaugural Federation Cup in 1977 was their last major success on the club scene.

ITI and its perennial rival, Hindustan Aeronautics Sports Club, having faltered, it was up to Jindal Steel Works to find the way forward. BFC, the team JSW created, got a new fan base to the Bangalore Football Stadium as their performance on the pitch, under English coach Ashley Westwood, kept the interest alive.

The team, led by Indian captain Sunil Chhetri, captured the imagination of fans as early as the first game itself. While the team established its presence at the top of the table because of a raft of home games, they suffered in away-games and, as a consequence, dropped out of the top two.

But other teams too lost points at crucial junctures, and BFC picked up its away-form at the right time to notch crucial wins.

Their victory arrived just at the right time for the game in the country as well as the State.

Chhetri, who is now the joint-leading scorer of the League with 14 goals, said that ‘none of us are surprised that we are here today.’ “There are very few moments in my career that will match the significance of this one.

It’s been a team effort since the first day. We’ve fought hard, trained harder and none of us are surprised that we are here today. If anything, we are delighted. This team is going down in history. We are the champions of India,” Chhetri said.

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