“Till date, this would be the biggest game.”
That was Sunil Chhetri's straightforward assessment of the upcoming AFC Cup semifinal between Bengaluru FC and Malaysia's Johor Darul Ta'zim, the defending champions. The Indian captain who has had a storied career thinks this is the match that he has been most excited about.
On the verge of scripting history, Bengaluru FC will seek to become the first Indian club to enter the final of AFC Cup. On earlier occasions, two Indian clubs -- East Bengal and Dempo -- had reached the semifinals.
"To put it simply, this game will decide if Indian Club Football can write a new chapter in history or not. We’re on the brink of something special and it’s going to take a determined 90 minutes to set foot where no Club from the Country has before. But more importantly this is not just about Bengaluru or Karnataka, this is about India," he added.
And ahead of the biggest game in the club's history, Bengaluru FC are rallying the support of not just their fans, but football fans from around the country.
The club have sent out letters to four other I-League clubs, asking them to forget their personal rivalries for a brief while, and back an Indian club's attempt to go where no other team has gone before.
"Much like our chases to the title over the last three years, let’s keep this brutally honest. We haven’t been the best of friends and we don’t intend for that to change," says the letter to Mohun Bagan. "But come October 19, we’re proposing a ceasefire of sorts. We’re asking you to make it to the fortress and back us for a change."
The letters, addressed to East Bengal, Aizawl FC, Shillong Lajong and arch-rivals Mohun Bagan, call the clubs to forget their local hostilities and back BFC on 19th when they take on the Malaysian side at the Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. The tie is delicately poised at 1-1, with BFC carrying a crucial away goal advantage.
The BFC players also spoke in a video, calling for fans from all parts of the country to support them on their big day, adding that the game on the 19th is not just BFC's but the whole of India's.
Just can't wait for Wednesday it probably is the biggest football match for an Indian club ever come support India's best team @bengalurufc— Parth Jindal (@ParthJindal11) October 16, 2016
The love and wishes from the football community is overwhelming.Big day for all at @bengalurufc as we look the raise the bar a little more.— Mustafa Ghouse (@MustafaGhouse) October 19, 2016
Arch-rivals Mohun Bagan responded to BFC's rallying call as well.
Mohun Bagan have responded to Bengaluru FC's letter. Sportmanship is this. Wonderful to see. pic.twitter.com/3xQ31RJPG2— Arjun Namboothiri (@nambooThree) October 18, 2016
ScoopWhoop News got access to all four letters that have been sent out to their fellow I-League competitors from BFC.
Full letter to Mohun Bagan:
Full letter to East Bengal:
Full letter to Aizawl FC:
Full letter to Shillong Lajong FC:
Certain things in football are more than just about rivalries. And this is one of those instances. Go on then! What are you waiting for? Let's back the blues!