If ever the power of the work ethic was in doubt when it came to prowess on the pitch, those whose conviction wasn’t guaranteed should take a good long look at Bengaluru FC, now arguably India’s biggest club despite only being formed in 2013.
For here is a fantastic example of taking care of business with a graft hard, play hard methodology. And the can-do attitude has paid off with glittering significance thanks to Bengaluru FC delighting their supporters by finally winning the Indian Super League with a 1-0 showdown victory over Goa FC.
No-one player epitomises the never-say-die mantra more than Sunil Chhetri, who is the much-loved club captain. Not only does he lead with his battle cry, he leads from the front, too. The front in question is the attack line; and as the team’s chief goal threat he has done this to great effect by emerging as top goal scorer with nine strikes this season.
Naturally, Chhetri is overjoyed to win the IPL. The silverware can now be added to the I-League title claimed in both 2013-14 and 2015-16, the Federation Cup in 2014-15 then 2016-17 and the Super Cup last year.
And he explained: “We’ve been working hard to try and win it because only if you win it, you get a place in the Asian Cup. We always thought we needed to reach the top four first and then give ourselves a chance again.”
While he is happy to accept plaudits for his own leadership and prowess in front of goal, Chhetri has been quick to pick out Rahul Bheke, who grabbed the all-important goal against Goa, for special mention.
He said: “Bheke is a guy who fixes things for us. If there is any leakage in the team, ask him and he’ll fix it. He has played as a left-back, right-back, he has defended and scored goals. Whenever he speaks he makes sense and he is a leader. Slowly he is turning into a club legend. I have no qualms in saying that it has just been two years and he’s been fantastic.”
Chhetri has also heaped praise on coach Carles Cuadrat for being able to shuffle his pack to maintain the side’s rhythm in the light of losing influential Erik Paartalu to injury. He added: “Losing him at that juncture, I believe, is what compelled the coach to rotate the squad more. Fitness was not a worry. He made sure that we got enough rest. He was not taking any chances. We might not have been as fluent as we were last year when we were scoring so many goals. But defensively, we were a solid unit.”
Some Blues fans might argue that some of the sophistication the team are known for has been sacrificed for endeavour but Chhetri makes no excuses for grinding out wins. He said: “We played tough football but we weren’t dirty. We play the same way in training. There is no malaise. Nobody wants to hurt anyone. Coach says unless you fight, your quality will not show. If the other team wants to fight and you’re not ready for that battle then you’re gone. We were physical because it was a part of the plan but no boy in my team ever wants to hurt anyone.”