Bengaluru FC set sight on AFC Champions League qualification
Bangalore: Having won the I-League crown in their debut season, Bengaluru Football Club have now set their sights on becoming the first Indian club to qualify for the prestigious AFC Champions League.
India gets a play-off slot for the AFC Champions League and I-League champions Bengaluru FC will have a chance to have a shot at taking part in the continent`s top-flight club tournament.
Last year Pune FC lost in the first of the three-round play-off competition. "We want to continue to dream big and want to be the first Indian Club to ever qualify for the AFC Champions League," BFC CEO Parth Jindal told reporters when asked about the future aim of his club.
Jindal said the club`s another target is to try and retain the trophy next year also.
"Once we have won this (I-League), we are not going to let it go very easily, and in order to do that we will have to improve; we will have to get some new players in; we will have to reshuffle some of the things because football is a very ruthless game and if you stand still somebody is going to run past you," he said.
On Indian Super League (ISL) which is scheduled to be held in September-October, Jindal said "it caters to different market and wish good luck to them".
Jindal said that the three-year relegation safety for his team granted by the AIFF gave a great degree of comfort as the level of investment was not small.
Replying to a query, Jindal said credit would go to the backroom staff including Heal Institute of Mumbai for keeping players fit and injury-free.
"A couple of players did get seriously injured and were flown to Mumbai to go through preventive care and some sort of minor surgeries. Even if the players were injured, they made it sure the recovery was quick," he said.
Jindal said his company would set up a residential football academy in Vijaynagar, for which the ground is being constructed and prepared. "Hopefully it will be a full-time residential academy, not only for Bangalore but also for entire country," Jindal said.
Captain Sunil Chettri said criticism from people that he has not played well for clubs motivated him do better. "Whenever people say I have played well for the country than for the club - just makes me more hungry to do well," he said.
"It doesn`t matter what people say I just want to do what I can do on the field to my best of abilities. It wouldn`t change when I wasn`t scoring and wouldn`t change when I am scoring now."
Head Coach Ashley Westwood said the training sessions were no different than what he had in England back home. "We did not try to make any difference. We came here without a system and the lads adopted to that quickly ... And that is reason we have been quite successful," he said.
Talking about his journey which had begun last September, Westwood said, "Obviously, to a win a league is never going to be easy. So, there were lots of difficulties along the way."
"Our main difficulty was opposition coming to our ground and we going to theirs - that demands an extra 10 or 15 per cent of an effort," he said.
Replying to a query, Westwood said the toughest opposition were East Bengal. On the standard of referees, Westwood said he had not commented on them as long as they committed an honest mistake.
"They try to do their best for the game. You can`t criticise somebody who make honest mistake. That is a part and parcel of football," he said.