Most football fans in the city can rattle off the names of their favourite European club players with ease, but plead ignorance when quizzed about the local scene.
Now, with the entry of JSW Bengaluru FC, fans no longer need to look to the West for a sense of identity.
The new club will make its much-anticipated debut at the football stadium on Sunday, in an I-League match against Kolkata powerhouse Mohun Bagan. The venue is nearly sold-out, and social media is filled with posts about the ‘pride of Bangalore’ — both rare occurrences.
The big names signed by the home team, no doubt, add to the excitement. India’s best striker Sunil Chhetri and promising international forward Robin Singh are just a couple of standout local talents.
The overseas quotient, meanwhile, is well represented by Liberian veteran Johnny Menyongar and John Johnson, a product of England’s Middlesbrough Academy. Squads from Bangalore have competed in the elite league before, but previous line-ups did not boast of such high quality.
“The people in the city have welcomed us with open arms.I’ve been told that the stands will be full on Sunday; we want to put up a good show and keep building on their trust,” said Ashley Westwood, Bengaluru FC’s English coach, here on Saturday.
Moroccan Karim Bencherifa, the coach of Mohun Bagan, explained that the formation of Benguluru FC held huge practical value. “I have always believed that Bangalore had a big talent pool, despite not having a big club which did consistently well on the national stage.
Now, with Bengaluru FC, we should see more stars emerging from here,” said the coach who took Goan club Salgaocar SC to the I-League title in 2011.
Benchrifa went on to praise Bangalore’s “football culture”, which is now primed for change. It is time to replace the Wayne Rooney jersey with something closer home.