It was coronation day for Bengaluru FC on Monday. By far the most impressive debutants in the National Football League (I-League history), the Jindal Steel Works (JSW) owned outfit clinched their maiden I-League crown sans the big names, a much sought-after success formula in Indian Football.
Albeit having the resources to cash in on the marquee signings, the affluent outfit chose to funnel their money judiciously. "We could have gone for the Moon. But that was never going to be the way we wanted to about it. However, we are on the moon at the moment," club consultant Mandar Tamhane said.
"Breaking the bank balance is not a success formula. We wanted to strike a balance between player's salary and spending wisely on the other important things which are as important as buying players," Tamhane adds.
"When we entered the fray there were not many marquee players we could choose from. The other clubs had already done their shopping and we were left with very few choices. At the end of the day, I am happy that we did not go for the big names.
"We brought John Johnson and Curtis Osano to lend experience at the back and it worked wonders. We got the Indian captain (Sunil Chhetri) upfront and kept faith on youngsters and players who reinvented themselves at BFC. The likes of Keegan (Pereira), Thoi (Singh) who have been in the fringes for a long time have found a place in BFC and are doing so well," says Tamhane, adding: "Look at Sunil (Chhetri). He is the enjoying himself on the left flank. I would say, he has reinvented himself."
Of the goals scored by BFC, 20 have come from the boots of Chhetri (14) and India International Robin Singh (6). Thoi Singh (4) shares the second largest chunk in goals netted along with Australian striker Sean Rooney (9). What's significant is that all these names prior to the start of the season, sans Chhetri, were not on the most-wanted list of I-League playing clubs.
"Ever since joining the club, I can feel the improvement after every training session. Everything that I need is at this club," Thoi was quoted saying on Bengaluru FC's official website. "Most importantly, I have regained my lost confidence. My teammates have been fantastic and the seniors have always been by my side giving me handy tips," he said.
"I have always played on the right wing and never ever thought the middle was for me. But thanks to the coach, all of that has changed now. I love my new position so much that I have almost forgotten how to play down the right," Thoi Singh added.
Young players like Mizoram's Beikhokhei Beingaichho and Siam Hanghal have also excelled at BFC.
"We give the players the best of facilities. From staying in the best hotels, to providing the perfect diet, we have done few basics correctly and the owners have backed us to the hilt. For example we travel with 8-9 support staff for our away games. Most teams don't. They travel with the bare minimum which is required. It is important to remain at the same level as in home games," Tamhane explains.
"This is where money is spent judiciously. I just think we have been successful with all out initiatives in doing the basics correctly. We have told the people what we are doing. This is very important."
Bengaluru FC have also tied up with HEAL, where international standards are maintained while dealing with injuries.
On the youth development front, Tamhane informs that BFC Academies and Grassroots Programme aims at promoting local talent the most. "The reason we don't have residential academies is because we want to give the local boys of Bangalore a chance. There is a lot of talent in Bangalore and we want to unearth that." Tamhane proudly adds: "Our philosophy as followed by our youth coach Richard Hood is to play in the same style as the senior team."
(Contributed by Debayan Mukherjee of All India Football Federation)