Cold winds greeted us as we embarked on a night to remember. The air was heavy with winter. And corporation circle, with vehicles.
Bangalore’s famed traffic now flowed towards the Kanteerava.
Completed in May 1997, the stadium contains four large arched entrances leading on to the inner field and lower spectator stands. Eight ramps have been provided in the stadium, taking spectators to the upper stands. Thus in total, 12 gates for spectators serve the stadium.
And boy did the spectators turn up!
As kick-off neared, the 12 gates and their pathways were permeated by passion. People flowed in though the entrances. There were flags and posters, scarves and standees. There were banners adorning the wayside. Sunil Chettri, much like his playing style, was everywhere.
With an hour to go, blue smoke filled the atmosphere and the chants had begun. The sounds had begun to grow and the West Block Blues had arrived.
The entrances to the gates held a message, “We don’t back down” – it read. It wasn’t just a statement. It was a threat, crafted from belief.
This was the Home of Bengaluru F.C.
For 100 of our elite customers, this was an experience unlike anything before. From the 2 year old toddler to the couples and families and the 60 year old lifelong cricket fan, this was an awakening.
As we waited for the players to line up, simmering in a cauldron of chants, excitement, anticipation and belief, we witnessed something truly remarkable.
We witnessed the West Block Blues in full flight. From right across, in the East stand, we watched from afar, in awe as they unfurled their banners, spread their vocal wings and rolled out chant after chant as the players lined up. We could not see their faces, but we did hear their passion.
The Kanteerva suddenly felt like The Chinnaswamy.
The noise had built to a crescendo, the first of many. And as Sunil Chettri kicked off, it erupted into a roar. We roared along.
Shillong Lajong didn’t know what hit them.
Kim Song –yong chested down a pin-point pick out from his centreback, and as the ball pinged around, it broke to C.K Vineeth, who created that extra yard of space on his turn to get away from his marker and finish neatly to the keeper’s left. The Kanteerva was in raptures in under a minute.
It is not difficult to understand why Bengaluru F.C have been so successful in the last two years. Ashley Westwood’s men adopt a direct approach and are always first to the ball. They are compact in defence and are quick to move the ball forward. Eugenson Lyngdoh runs the games at his pace, while Sunil Chettri is a dynamite. They work hard for each other and are very well drilled.
This would result in the second goal as another deep free kick was flicked out wide by Kim –Song yong, who then continued his run into the box to double their lead, tapping in a cross from his strike partner.
The two combined again as the North Korean ran onto a clever dummy from C.K Vineeth to wrap up the game.
As the final whistle blew and the cheers erupted, we could still hear the shouts of BFC, instilling in us a belief that Indian Football is very much on the rise. That maybe, just maybe, the dream might not be so distant after all.
Late that night, as we settled down from the euphoria and the cacophony of noises had died down, we were left with one lasting image.
The West Block Blues unveiling a massive banner that covered most of their stand. It read “We will take back what is rightfully ours” with their stance signified in three magical words.
Unbent. Unbowed. Unbroken.