CHENNAI: It is one of the best things to happen to Indian football in recent years. But that a lot of groans could be heard when it happened is testament to the convoluted nature of the country’s football scene now.
On Wednesday evening, Bengaluru FC created history by entering the semifinals of the AFC Cup after they held Tampines Rovers to a goalless draw in Singapore. Albert Roca’s men had earlier defeated Rovers 1-0 in Bengaluru. CK Vineeth had scored the all-important goal then. The defending I-League champs became only the third Indian club to reach this phase after East Bengal in 2013 and Dempo in 2008. They will now take on holders Johor Darul Ta’zim FC of Malaysia.
But the result means that all BFC players, scattered across various teams, will miss the opening phase of the Indian Super League (ISL). Bengaluru players will stay with the team at least until October 19 — the day of the second leg of the semifinal — and will miss even more if they move on to the final (November 5).
While every team, except FC Goa, have at least one BFC player in the ranks, Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters will be the worst hit. While the high-profile miss for Mumbai will be skipper Sunil Chhetri, the loss of goalkeeper Amrinder Singh means that they will have to take to the field with a foreigner playing in that position. They will also miss Manipur youngster Udanta Singh and left-back Lalchhuanmawia for their first five games.
Kerala will miss the services of midfielder CK Vineeth and left-back Rino Anto staying with BFC until their engagements are done. Pune will miss Eugeneson Lyngdoh for four games while NorthEast United will not be able to call on defender Salam Ranjan Singh for at least six games.
Delhi Dynamos will miss Seminlen Doungel for their first four games while Atletico de Kolkata will be devoid of Keegan Pereira’s services for four games. Chennaiyin’s sole player out will be forward Daniel Lalhlimpuia. But for BFC, their sole focus is on creating history, which they will do if they can make the finals.
“The semifinal is surely going to be even harder,” Roca said after the game. “We are not competing in the domestic League and have had only had two official games in three and a half months.”