Last year, Bengaluru FC lifted the trophy after thrashing Dempo 4-2 in the finals. In doing so, it became the first-ever team to have won the I-League title in its debut season. Indian captain Sunil Chhetri was a key element in Bengaluru’s success. In his first seven games of the season, Chhetri hadn’t scored a single goal. Switching to the left would give him space to create ample chances, according to the team’s coach. Though reluctant at first, Chhetri soon adapted to his new position. It was for the first time in his career that Chhetri, a well-known striker, played on the left. And boy, it worked wonders! Chhetri ended up as the league’s joint-top scorer with 14 goals in his bag, despite starting the season on a poor note. He then went on to bag his fourth AIFF Player of the Year award. Chhetri also recently helped Bengaluru clinch the Federation Cup against familiar foes Dempo. The sign of a man in top-notch form.
Much of the credit for the team’s success goes to their coach. Ashley Westwood, a product of the Manchester United Academy, sets out a 4-3-3 system for his team. He is the one who pushed Chhetri out of his comfort zone, and the results are out there for everyone to see. Westwood also dropped Chhetri at the start, a move only few coaches in could think of. Of the 24 matches played, Bengaluru won 14 games and rightly so, earned the coveted trophy.
Post the Federation Cup, Bengaluru FC has certainly confirmed its champion status. With an Indian club doing so well at the national level, the future of Indian football can only be brighter. As for the I-League, the club could make it two in two, based on their current form.