Bengaluru FC’s (BFC) inauguration into the Indian Football scene will probably figure amongst the top 5 highlights in every Bangalorean’s 2013 list. A city that has embraced a football culture unlike any other city in the country, there needed to be a club representing it and none so better than “The Blues”.
With a packed to capacity 7000 crowd every week, the weekly games symbolize more than just getting an opportunity to watch your local team slogging it out against opposition from all over the country.
The passion of the home fans described by Captain Sunil Chetri as “the best he has ever seen” personifies the hunger and desperation in the city for football and its accomplices.
Largely populated with youth below the age of 30 most of whom are avid fans of the Premier League and La Liga alike, there could have been no better location to find the ingredients of a potential Indian football powerhouse.
One of the first things you will notice while watching a game at the Karnataka Football Stadium (KFS) is the noise from the West Block A Stand. Moderately priced and packed to the brim, the synchronized noise generated by that stand alone is enough to encompass the atmosphere of the game. Equivalent to Manchester United’s “Stretford End” and Liverpool’s “Kop”, West Block A brings a mix-match of Indian and English chants with the periodic bellowing horn tearing into the folk drums resonating from the North Stand. Watching that stand at its loudest must give the club directors further inspiration to work on making the club bigger and better. Personal experience is highly recommended.
BFC’s meteoric rise in its first season in professional football stands out as an example of corporate success in Indian football. The JSW group suddenly finds itself loved by the Bengaluru’s avid football fan base that are overjoyed beyond belief that their city now has a football club representing it. The once old and dingy looking KSFA now bears a renewed look with even the unused East Stand getting a coat of bright blue & red. Having personally played in the stadium representing my college team, I’ve noticed that the sanitary facilities all have been redone to suit professional standards.
Popular franchises like Coffee Day, Arbor brewing Company amongst others were roped in to partner BFC in its operations showing great intent in popularizing Bengaluru FC’s brand in the city.
BFC Manager Ashley Westwood’s proposed plan of meeting Premier League standards is a huge positive and with the proposed investment into the re construction of the stadium into a 45,000-50,000 capacity stadium for the Under-17 World Cup, BFC can only grow in stature from here. An exciting youth program with facilities for lodging at the stadium premises itself signals great intent from the club in developing local talent. From brief sightings of seeing the academy recruits train, I can tell you that the future indeed looks bright.
One of the standout moments of BFC’s campaign this year was the response shown by travelling fans that made it to an away game at Goa. The culture of traveling to support your team doesn’t exist even in BCCI’s IPL despite cricket being almost a religion in this country. The initiative by the club and the 50 odd fans that made it to the game is a landmark in BFC’s infant steps into the premier tier of Indian football and a testament to the football enthusiasm in the city.
Another such event was the rally/march organized by the fan’s association to have a marching brigade of fans covered in paint, carrying banners and flags that paraded across the area before entering the stadium before the game. A pleasant surprise to many including myself as we didn’t expect such sort of dedication from such a large group of people. The fanatics soon realized that there were one in many that supported the club and this in turn led to a sizable marching brigade when it was organized yet again for that crunch game against East Bengal.
BFC’s excellent performance in the I-League so far has led fans to expect AFC Champions League football next season where in qualification for Asian club football’s biggest tourney would be an achievement for Indian football in itself; a feat by the way that has never been accomplished by any Indian club recently. Only time will tell whether this can be accomplished, but it is certainly achievable at the rate of growth engulfing the club.
Bengaluru FC remains to be one of the first clubs from the South of India barring the historically active Goan and Bengali participation to actually make such an impact on Indian football, that too in its first season. Weekends in Bangalore now have an extra dimension and football fans cannot wait to see their team in action.
The chant that reverberates the loudest should summarize the situation at hand :
“Namma Ooruu (Our City), BENGALURU!
Who are we? B F C !”