I-League club Bengaluru FC are on the cusp of making Indian footballing history as they take on Johor Darul Ta'zim on 19 October in the second leg of the AFC Cup semi-finals. A stunning left-footed strike by Eugeneson Lyngdoh earned Bengaluru a 1-1 draw and a crucial away goal against the defending AFC Cup champions in Malaysia.
But the lack of away support at their game in Malaysia was seen as disappointing by the club and now Bengaluru FC have launched an extraordinary social media campaign to garner as many fans as they can to the Kanteerava Stadium.
In a letter written to Mohun Bagan FC, the Karnataka club has said, "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. 'Hate' is a strong word and we'll go with 'hostility' instead. It's this hostility towards the other that has kept us going. It's seen us push ourselves to the limit and beyond in pursuit of three points, sometimes one point and eventually glory. We feed off this hostility. That stays. It always will."
This unprecedented, yet welcome step taken by Bengaluru FC continued as they wrote, "But come October 19 and we're proposing a ceasefire of sorts. We're on the brink of something really special - a place in the final of the AFC Cup. It's territory that no Indian club has ever set foot on. And we're asking you to make it to the Fortress and back us for a change. It's a place that will always be special for the both of us."
They then go onto say, "No we aren't asking you to dress up in blue. Your green and maroon ensemble works just fine. But make it to the Fortress. Forget for 90 minutes that we don't see eye to eye for most parts of the year. Let's walk shoulder to shoulder on this one. As for hostility, there is always January."
When asked about the letter, Bengaluru FC told Firstpost, "We've been maintaining it right from the start that this is not about Bengaluru or Karnataka. It's about India. The clubs we reached out to always draw fans when their teams come to play in Bengaluru and we only thought it right to reach out to them (Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, Aizawl FC and Shillong Lajong FC) for the cause of Indian football."
The draw in the first leg has given an advantage to the I-League champions in their quest for a historic final appearance in the AFC Cup, the continent's second tier club competition.
"Yes, it is the biggest game of my club career,” Chhetri told Scroll.in. "It is simply because we have a chance of going where no Indian club has been before. I’ve never been in a situation like this. We’re putting the country on the Asian map and it’s a very big deal."
"To think that JDT is all about their two foreign strikers would be nothing but stupidity. They have some real quality and I’m saying this from having played them four times now. The only advantage we have – and a slight one at that – is the away goal. This is a fresh 90 minutes and you can never tell the script days before."
The Bengaluru FC players including Chhetri were part of a video released by the club on their official YouTube channel.
— Bengaluru FC (@bengalurufc) October 9, 2016
Here is the letter that Bengaluru FC sent to Mohun Bagan before their AFC Cup semi-final second leg.