Fans made it an emotional moment for the Bengaluru Football Club. They had gathered in huge numbers to cheer the champions of the I-League at the airport
Well before the Bengaluru Football Club team touched base with Bangalore a few days ago, there was a loud commotion at the Kempegowda International Airport. A chant – “Let’s go, BFC!” - could be heard from a distance, and a steady crescendo was reached as a motley crew trooped to the arrival terminal.
The fans of the football club, which was crowned the I-League champion at Margoa recently, turned up in huge numbers to greet the victorious team. Huge banners with slogans – “Welcome home, champion!” and a WWE superstar John Cena-inspired “The champ is here!” - were on display, as the team made its way to the exit gate. Around 13 members from airport security - both armed and unarmed - stood guard to ensure a peaceful reception.
Striker Robin Singh was the first to emerge, and the stunned 23-year-old quickly stopped in his tracks. After a few seconds, he had to fight hard to hold back the tears. “I had goosebumps when I walked out. I had tears in my eyes,” Robin said, when asked about the reception.
Captain Sunil Chhetri, ever the crowd favourite, sported a huge smile and hugged the fans. “There are two reasons behind BFC’s success – our coach Ashley Westwood, and our fans. These are the best fans in the world. Right from day one, they have supported us. This is an amazing feeling,” Chhetri said.
All photo requests were obliged by members of the squad, who then proceeded to lift Westwood on their shoulders. Westwood, who has received unreserved praise from everyone associated with the team for his thoroughly professional approach, said: “The fans have played their part in this win as well. You can see them today, they have been magnificent. We thank them for everything, and I am happy that we have been able to give something back to them.” Defender John Johnson, one of Westwood's British recruits, preferred to take a back-seat to his more flamboyant teammates. This was in keeping with his attitude on the field - steady and reliable as a stopper, but a good distance away from the limelight.
The 25-year-old stated that a crucial away match against Mohun Bagan gave him the belief that BFC had what it took to win the I-League. “The match against Mohun Bagan was massive. We showed great character to win 2-0, and I remember thinking – ‘This could be our chance, this could be our year.’ It was an important moment,” he said.
The celebrations tapered off in about an hour, but this was not the end of the festivities yet. A victory parade is on the cards for the team - from a central location in the city to the Bangalore Football Stadium sometime this week, subject to permission from the government and the police. At the very least, a function has been planned at the stadium. The title may have been won at Goa, but the biggest party will fittingly be held at home.