DESPITE BEING JUST one year into being in the same league, Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC have become quite the rivals.
The two time I-League, two time Federation Cup and reigning Super Cup champions Bengaluru FC had a fearsome debut campaign in their first season at the Indian Super League, finishing the league stage with a record 8 point lead at the very top. And there wasn't one team that had managed to pip them at their own fortress, the Kanteerava Stadium, other than 2015 ISL winners Chennaiyin FC, second in the points table.
It was Kanteerava Stadium which hosted the final of ISL 2017-18 and in a fierce battle it was once again the Marina Machans that trumped the Blues, claiming their second ISL title. The rivalry between the two fans, and the two teams, has only been growing since then, and it was an overshadowing theme when select players and coaches of these two teams came together today, once again in Bangalore, for an ISL 2018-19 media day event.
Although friendly and courteous with each other, when the coaches spoke about the upcoming season, they talked of the need to up their game, knowing a fiercer challenge was about to come from the other team.
Carles Cuadrat, the head coach of Bengaluru FC, said,
“Last season we had an amazing league phase in the ISL which brought us to the big final. We fell short there, but went on to win the Super Cup. Similarly, the club had lost a league title at home a few years back in the last few moments. What makes the club and the supporters stronger is the desire to reach and stay at that level and that is something we work very hard on.”
BFC player Dimas Delgado, also made it clear that he had unfinished business with the Tamil Nadu outfit,
“It feels really good to be back in shape. I have been working for a long time to get back from the injury I suffered against Chennaiyin in March. I wanted to play in the AFC Cup, but couldn't. Now that I am fit and ready, I’m eager to help my team as much as I can. As far as the new players are concerned, changes keep happening in every club. All the boys who've come in this season have always given their one hundred percent in training. They are open to learning and listening, and they want to help the team as much as we do.”
You can watch their entire interaction with the media, which also featured Indian national team goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, right here...
As for Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory, the challenge is tough; he has to defend his title, something no one has done in ISL before. In the 22 year history of national level league competitions in India, it has only been done twice; by East Bengal (2002-03 & 2003-04) and Dempo (2006-07 & 2007-08). The gaffer has a high bar to match, and his words said he was fully aware of that,
“We have to be mentally tough. You just don't win it only once but you go back and defend it. The thing that I am trying to instill in my squad is that champions do not win only once. They go and defend it year after year. It is more of a mental thing.”
You can watch his interaction with the media, along with Chennaiyin FC star striker Jeje Lalpekhlua, right here,
It's perhaps appropriate that these two fierce competiors are starting their campaign by facing each other, on Sunday 30th September at Kanteerava, right where it all happened in the last ISL final.
It will be a grudge match, and one that will set the tone for the season as these top-of-the-table contenders look to resume their journey in the Indian Super League.