Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC went about their business smartly at their first ever Indian Super League draft retaining five players from last season while strengthening their squad further by adding eight more Indian players, in Mumbai on Sunday.
First pick and fan-favourite goalkeeper Lalthuammawia Ralte was joined by Harmanjot Khabra, Lenny Rodrigues, Alwyn George and local-boy Calvin Abhishek among the players who will continue to be part of the squad. These players, along with the existing retentions in Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, John Johnson, Juanan, Nishu Kumar, Malsawmzuala and Daniel Lalhlimpuia, will boost the squad ahead of the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal Semifinal against North Korean side April 4.25 SC in a month’s time from now.
Joining them will be seasoned professionals in goalkeeper Abhra Mondal, midfielder Boithang Haokip and defenders Rahul Bheke and Zohmingliana Ralte, along with exciting youngsters Joyner Lourenco, Collin Abranches, Thongkhosiem Haokip and Subhasish Bose.
Albert Roca, Bengaluru FC Head Coach, was content with the draft and the luck factor that goes with it, “We cannot have all the players we want. Eugeneson, Rino and Chhuantea have been important players for the club, but we knew it was impossible for us to get all our choices. However, we are happy with our picks and who we’ve signed so far. The circumstances of a draft mean that some players have to go and we’ve tried to keep as many players as possible. We looked at players who are compatible with our team, because we have important games in the AFC Cup coming up fast.”
While new signings Abhra Mondal and Boithang Haokip bring in loads of experience, the likes of Rahul Bheke and Zohmingliana Ralte were few of the stand-out performers in Indian football over the last few seasons. Rahul has created a name for himself on the domestic circuit with consistent performances for Air India, Mumbai FC, East Bengal, Kerala Blasters and FC Pune City over the last six seasons. Meanwhile, Zohmingliana, an ex-Pune FC and DSK Shivajians player, was an ever-present figure in Aizawl FC’s fairy-tale run to the I-League title. In fact, Aizawl were second only to Mohun Bagan when it came to conceding goals as they romped to the title with Zohmingliana scoring a decisive goal against the Kolkata club in the penultimate game of the season.
Bengaluru FC continued their tradition of keeping faith in youth by snapping up striker Thongkhosiem Haokip and left-back Subhasish Bose. Twenty-four-year-old Haokip was the highest scoring Indian player in the 2014-15 I-League netting seven goals throughout the season while at Pune FC. He then had stints with Salgaocar FC, FC Goa, Kerala Blasters and East Bengal.
Twenty-one-year-old Subhasish, on the other hand, had a breakthrough season at Churchill Brothers, before becoming a defensive mainstay for Sporting Goa in 2016 which prompted Mohun Bagan to sign the talented youngster. His impressive performances with the Kolkata-side even caught the eye of National Team Coach Stephen Constantine who called him up to the National Team camp, while also being part of the Indian U-23 team for the AFC Championship Qualifiers 2017.
Bengaluru FC Squad
Goalkeepers: Lalthuammawia Ralte, Abhra Mondal, Calvin Abhishek
Defenders: John Johnson, Juanan, Nishu Kumar, Rahul Bheke, Subhasish Bose, Zohmingliana Ralte, Collin Abranches, Joyner Lourenco
Midfielders: Erik Paartalu, Dimas Delgado, Toni Dovale, Malsawmzuala, Harmanjot Khabra, Alwyn George, Lenny Rodrigues, Boithang Haokip
Forwards: Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh, Thongkhosiem Haokip
(Thirteen players picked at today’s ISL Draft have been marked in red)