The teams from public sector giants, Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) and Hindustan Aircraft Limited (HAL) filled up the Bangalore Football Stadium when they took on visiting teams in the I-League, India's premier club football tournament. But with ITI having disbanded their team and HAL not qualifying, the City will have its new representative in Bengaluru FC, a team promoted by Jindal Steel Works, in the fray as I-League soccer returns to Bangalore after two years. The team has secured a direct entry by paying the requisite fee to the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
Apart from having Englishman Ashley Westwood as the coach, the team has a few talented foreign signings and also India skipper, Sunil Chhetri and striker Robin Singh. John Johnson and Curtis Osano, who turned out for Middlesbrough in the English Premier League for a season, and Kenyan-born Englishman Osano, a product of the Reading Academy and played for League Two side AFC Wimbledon, along with Australian Sean Rooney and John Menyongar of Liberia are the foreign signings.
Not just with their team, Bengaluru FC have decided to make it more than their worth by planning a slew of new initiatives for their home matches. The organisation of home matches is the prerogative of the clubs. But that does not happen as the district and state association do so on their behalf. But this year, Bengaluru FC have taken the task of doing so. Security, ticketing etc is all their responsibility. And as such, they have planned to bring in the corporate culture in a big way.
The tickets have been fixed at ` 250 and ` 450 for the main stands where corporate boxes will be arranged on the western stands.
The normal ` 30 tickets will be sold to the general public who will be accommodated in the northern stands. The eastern stands will be out of bounds as they have been deemed to be unsafe. The southern end, where slums were located for decades, now houses the FIFA Academy. "Yes, they have a lot of plans and I think it is right. We have stagnated a lot for years and if someone comes up with some innovation, why not. Let us move forward," said A R Khaleel, the KSFA president and also the I-League Chairman.
"They want to bring in their clients and other guests and erect corporate boxes. The ` 450 tickets also includes hospitality. Most or all the tickets have already been given by their clients and other officials. Whether they come or not, tickets have been already sold," Khaleel added.
"Our state and International players will be accommodated as has been the practice in the main stands," Khaleel added. Ironically, the AIFF's I-League committee has decided that to promote greater attendance and improve the revenues of the clubs, after deducting the stadium hire charges, 90 per cent of the gate collection will go to the host club."
As such, Bengaluru FC is all set to make the most of the AIFF's decisions and also bring in a new concept in spectator viewing as far as the league is concerned. So football viewing will be a totally different experience here on for the millions of soccer lovers in the City.
Football at all levels beats any other sport, including cricket, in popularity and Bangalore has always needed two good teams to fill up a stadium, whether or not one of them is a home team.
The club's crest features the Bangalore Palace coloured in white, symbolic of victory. The city and state is represented by a picture of the blue "Gandaberunda", the mythical two headed bird, the symbol of the Karnataka.
So big time soccer returns with Bengaluru FC taking on Kolkata's glamour side Mohun Bagan at the Bangalore Football Stadium on Sunday, Sept 22 at 4.00 p.m.
Bengaluru FC squad
Goalkeepers: Ricardo Cardozo, Bruno Colaco, Pawan Kumar.
Defenders: Don Bosco Andrew, Rino Anto, Lalrozama Fanai, John Johnson (England), Vishal Kumar, N S Manju, Curtis
Osano (England), Keegan Pereira.
Midfielders: Sampath Kuttymani, Malemngamba Meetei, John Menyongar (Liberia), Shankar Sampingiraj, Gurtej Singh,
T. Singh, Darren Caldera, Siam Hanghal.
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Sean Rooney (Australia), Robin Singh.
Coach: Ashley Westwood (England).