It got nervous towards the end, but Bengaluru FC was fittingly crowned I-League champion in its debut season after a 4-2 defeat of Dempo SC here on Monday.

“No one expected us to be in this position at this stage, not even in the top five probably,” the assistant coach Pradhyum Reddy said afterwards. “If you’d said we’d win the league at the start of the season, I’d have thought you were crazy. If you look at it on paper, there are so many strong teams in the I-League.

“Now we have to reassess and set new goals. This means we’re going to be playing in an AFC tournament next year. The building work for that starts tomorrow, both on and off the field.”

Reddy hailed the head coach Ashley Westwood’s role in the triumph. “He was brought in to set up the club the way professional clubs are run everywhere else in the world and unlike in India. It’s amazing what he’s achieved, taking this group of players — whom all you journalists wouldn’t have given a chance at the start of the season — and moulding them into a good unit,” he said.

The Dempo coach Arthur Papas was all praise for Bengaluru FC as a club.

“They’ve come into the I-League, and set the standard off the field and on it. They actually had more supporters here today than we had and we’re the home team. That shows that in India, you can do very good things in club football if clubs have a vision and are trying to improve.”

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