Indian Football

Bengaluru FC overcome obstacles on and off the pitch in Korea to inch closer to AFC Cup glory

The team’s clean sheet in North Korea was their second consecutive, as Gurpreet Singh saved a penalty.

Bengaluru FC came away from Pyongyang with a clean sheet and progress to the next round of the Inter-Zonal final of the AFC Cup 2017.

The Blues reached the penultimate round of the Asia’s second-tier competition for elite clubs for a second consecutive year after having lost the final to Iraq’s Air-Force Club last season.

Last year, they beat the 2015 AFC Champions Johor Baru of Malaysia in a high-voltage semifinal clash and will be hoping to do the same against Istiklol FC of Tajikistan, who beat Ceres Negros of Philippines 5-1 on aggregate to progress to the semis.

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“They are a very, very good team. They (are from Central Asia) play like a team from the Middle-East. It’s going to be tough,” said Mandar Tamhane, Chief Technical Officer of Bengaluru FC.

The Crowns from Tajikistan have finished top of their league five times in the last five years and have won the domestic cup an equal number of times. Incidentally, Istiklol lost to Johor in the 2015 AFC Cup final, with the team from Malaysia winning by a single goal.

Artem Baranovskiy was shown a straight red in the second half of their Inter-Zonal final cup semifinal and will miss the first leg against BFC. The Blues will have the advantage of playing the second leg at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.

Tamhane mentions they ideally want to get an away goal in Dushanbe. This will also be a match-up of two solid defensive units. BFC’s new-look defence has kept back-to-back clean sheets – the latest, a commendable one in North Korea. While they have conceded six goals in eight AFC Cup matches this season, Istiklol have let in one fewer in the same number of matches.

“It is heartening to see this. We assembled this team at short notice and its commendable that they performed the way they did in difficult circumstances,” said Tamnhane.

The Blues conceded a penalty when Rahul Bheke brought down An Il-Bom in the box, but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu dived to his right denying midfielder Ri Hyong Jin’s effort from 12 yards.

Won Song hit the crossbar for the home team as the team’s new custodian and the defence held firm.

Bengaluru started with an unchanged line-up from the first leg as Subhashish Bose, Malsawmzuala and Daniel Lalhlimpuia came on for Nishu Kumar, Lenny Rodrigues and Antonio Dovale.

BFC’s CTO says contact with the team was minimal as they kept in touch via the landlines at the team hotel, amid internet blackout.

“We were supposed to travel on the 8th but Foundation Day in North Korea meant that we had to postpone our plans and landed just 48 hours before the game. It’s not easy, playing in jet-lagged conditions. With 15 bags of kits and equipment going missing and arriving just a day before the game, the players had to train in makeshift gear on the eve of the clash. Visa issues were also present as we couldn’t process it while the national team players were away playing Macau. Finally, the AFC officials intervened and we got it done on time,” Tamhane spoke of the challenges that Bengaluru FC faced.

Mandar says there are a lot of positives to be taken away from this game. “When you go out there, all these issues take a backseat. When the team goes and actually experiences this, mentally they have to be very strong. This is also a victory for the staff nowhere in the forefront,” he hailed BFC’s operational staff.

With their North Korean sojourn over, Tamhane said there were ‘no more excuses’. “We were very happy with the draft and the performances have just fortified our belief. They are playing the way the coach wants them to play. This is the reason we played in Spain against European teams, we wanted tougher opposition and tougher games.”

With the away leg first up on September 27th, the West Zonal final will decide the other finalist a day prior, with Syria’s Al-Wahda leading last season’s champions Air Force Club of Iraq by two goals to one.

Bengaluru. Al-Wahda. Air Force. Istiklol. They’ve all played in the final before but Air Force is the only one to have won the competition. The other three will be looking for a second shot at the cherry.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.