Kolkata,15 March 2023: Penalty shootouts are frequently unexpected. Yet there was a sense of foreboding when Bengaluru FC ‘s Sandesh Jhingan walked up to take his penalty in the Indian Super League playoff shootout against Mumbai City FC on Sunday at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. The whole West Block A, normally a very noisy area, held its collective breath as though there was a chance that Jhingan would miss his shot and the shootout would continue. But they have to have known it was going to end up in the back of the net. This was not going to be the end of the narrative.
When comparing Indian football achievements to those of other countries, sceptics typically laugh. Even yet, it’s easy to compare Bengaluru FC’s comeback narrative this season to other examples. The Blues finished the season ninth out of eleven teams, earning 10 points from 12 games. Flash forward to March, and they are currently in the ISL final. They won ten straight games along the way. Actually, in 2023, the only game they have lost in regular time is the one on Sunday, which they still won. If this were a film, it would be condemned for being so realistic.
Bengaluru FC and a large number of their followers. They will now go to Goa to find out how this wonderful narrative ends. It might conclude with them hoisting the Cup. Regardless of the outcome, the Blues faithful will be singing about this one for a long time.
“We’ve gone a long way for what we’ve done so far this season from where we took a lot of mental strength and unity and we’ve got that among everybody, not just the coaches and the staff,” Bengaluru coach Simon Grayson said after the victory. They may have shown a lot of mental strength and unity, but there is a lot more to their rebirth than that. Grayson made various changes to the tactics, the most notable of which was maybe shifting Javi Hernandez to a deeper slot from where he began commanding games. Roy Krishna and Sunil Chhetri have returned to goalscoring form. In their twelve league matches in 2022, they scored eight goals, but in their eleven games in 2023, they have scored 22. Then came the rise of players like N Sivasakthi and Rohit Kumar. They added much-needed vitality to a team that desperately needed it.
Then there were the Bengaluru fans, who continued to throng to the stadium despite the club losing game after game. BFC has had to establish a fanbase from the ground up. Unlike teams in Kerala or Goa, which were given a football-crazed catchment region to work with. The biggest complaint when they originally moved into the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. It was from the much smaller Bangalore Football Stadium was that their few thousand ardent followers. As noisy as they were, barely filled a quarter of the stadium, making it appear mainly empty. On Sunday, the stands were brimming with blue, so there were no such nasty remarks. There were a good number of children among them. At least some of whom would have been moved by the narrative this season to come year after year.