19th October 2016,  Sree Kanteerva Stadium Bengaluru FC were on the brink of creating history. The club was 4-2 up on aggregate against Malaysian giants Johor Dahur Takzim, the infamous ‘West Block Blues’ chanting their hearts out and as the final whistle blew India rejoiced, for the first time an Indian Club had made an AFC cup final and through all the celebration at the sidelines, the man responsible for all the success, Albert Roca. 

Bengaluru FC has without a sinew of doubt, revolutionalized Indian Football and Albert Roca played a key role in making BFC the dominant force it is today. Roca had an impressive portfolio, Assistant manager at Galatasaray and Barcelona he was a great thinker of the game and was tactically sound. Two months into his job Roca guided BFC to the final of the AFC Cup, he became an instant fan favorite and instilled his philosophy of football into the players. The likes of Sunil Chhetri, John Johnson, and Juanan were already class players and did well under the leadership of Roca, but it was the young players that really improved under him, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Udanta Singh, Rahul Bheke, Subhashish Bose and Harmajot Khabra really seemed to flourish under Roca.

Ahead of the 2017/18 Campaign, BFC announced that they will be shifting from the I-league to the lucrative ISL. The onus would be upon Roca and his men to deliver, the fans the pundits, always expected the team to deliver and deliver they did. BFC finished at the top of the table during the group stage and even went on to beat Pune City in the semi-finals. The final was a day to remember and one to forget, for different reasons, I had never seen such energy in the air, fan marches, Big 50-feet banners, chanting on the streets, banter, and exchange of ‘pleasantries’ amongst the Chennai and BFC fans, it was surreal to see that a cricket loving country show so much love and passion for the Beautiful game.

Though BFC lost the final, Roca was praised for his tactical awareness and consistency the whole season. BFC faced a tough AFC Cup Challenge, they had drawn New Radiant (Maldives), Aizawl FC (India) and Abahani Dhaka (Bangladesh). Roca’s Blues started strong, three back to back wins against Aizawl, Abahani Dhaka, and New Radiant, but a 2-0 loss to New Radiant in the return fixture meant that both BFC and The Maldivian club were tied on points with just two fixtures to go it seemed like things were gonna go down to the wire. On the last Matchday, BFC was traveling to Dhaka with and was level on points with New Radiant at 12 apiece so if both teams won their games it would come down to Goal difference. New Radiant was facing Aizawl FC who had lost all their games and had one point courtesy of a draw against Abahani Dhaka, But this the beauty of sport isn’t it? on any day an underdog can step up and surprise the world after all “David Beat Goliath”. To everyone’s surprise, Aizawl FC beat New Radiant 2-1 while BFC thumped Dhaka 4-0. BFC was through to the Knockout stages of the AFC cup!

But as the garden city was rejoicing, news came broke that coach Albert Roca is stepping down as manager at BFC, though the news came as a shock to the fans, it was almost poetic that Roca joined the club while BFC was preparing for the knockouts and now part ways at the exact same stage, his journey came full circle. The chants of the fans singing ” Roca Roca Dede” and ” Parth Jindal went to Spain and had a cup of Mocha, he got us back a manager his name is Albert Rocha” is still fresh in my ears and Roca’s contribution not only to BFC but to Indian football as a whole should never be forgotten.


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