I-League Qualifiers: Bengaluru United focused on promotion

With very little margin for error, head coach Richard Hood hopes to get Bengaluru United promoted in what will be their second campaign in the I-League Qualifiers.

By Naveen Peter

The 2020-21 season of Indian football will be unique. With no spectators inside the stadiums and the teams forced into a biosecure bubble due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges are many.

But FC Bengaluru United, a team that will compete in the I-League Qualifiers 2020, is prepared to take on any problem head-on.

“This has been a pre-season like no other where we have all been locked in with unusual amounts of inactivity for the last five-six months, and that has been the most vital consideration in our planning,” FC Bengaluru United head coach Richard Hood told the I-League website.

“That apart, we have monitored our progress and pushed our squad with responsibility and have tried to optimise each player’s conditioning in a highly individualised manner to eventually peak in October (in time for the qualifiers).”

The qualifiers will follow a round-robin format with the five teams facing each other once. The table-topper after the final round of fixtures will be promoted to the 2020-21 I-League, the second tier of Indian football

Competing alongside ARA FC, Bhawanipore FC, Garhwal FC and Mohammedan Sporting, the Bengaluru-based side is eyeing the sole I-League spot. Richard Hood realises that margin for error is minimal.

Head coach Richard Hood (centre) is preparing FC Bengaluru United for the I-League Qualifiers 2020. Photo: I-League

“The club has extended a tremendous amount of trust and support in the high-performance model that myself and the staff have committed to deliver,” he said detailing the team’s plans.

“We will be competitive and the desire to dominate the 90 minutes is the singular point of our focus. We come in with the knowledge that there is not a single team in the tournament that is there to merely make up the numbers.”

Helping Richard Hood - one of the experienced names in Indian football - in this endeavour is the former Indian football team captain Gouramangi Singh.

For the 34-year-old Gourmangi Singh, Bengaluru United is his maiden foray into coaching. But for Richard Hood, that’s barely a concern.

“The value Mangi (Gouramangi Singh) brings to the club is vividly evident across every process that we operate,” Hood shared.

“There are very few people in our game who have seen the game evolve as closely as he has – from his starting days to being a national team regular.

“Everyone knows the professionalism with which he managed himself and to this day, he remains an individual who is hungry and dedicated towards his growth as a coach.”

The I-League Qualifiers 2020 will get underway on October 8. They will be played at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata and the Municipal Stadium in Kalyani, a township near Kolkata. The qualifiers end on October 19.