Goal! Bangalore FC scores on and off the field to rise to the top

Football ClubFans at the 8,000-seater Bangalore FC stadium.

It's not often that you see a new club challenge the old order in football. But Bangalore FC has done just that.

As the I-League reaches its half-way mark, the JSW Group-owned club, formed barely six months ago, has been making all the right noises and is topping the league standings.

The club's unique marketing initiatives have already helped it build a strong fan base. Almost every home game has been sold out. Sunday's game against one of the oldest Indian clubs, East Bengal, will be no different.

The 8,000-odd crowd includes a unique mix of college students, families, children and women.

The energy from the stands has rubbed off on the players. India's captain Sunil Chhetri, his Indian team strike partner Robin Singh and a 'Rooney' — Sean Rooney — play for the side, managed by former English Premier League professional Ashley Westwood as coach.

They now sit on top of the I-League table, six points ahead of second-placed Sporting Clube de Goa. With 8 goals in 13 games, Chhetri is the second-highest scorer in the league.

"If you have ideas and know how to implement them, then it's not that tough to run a club as it is made to look. Many of us at the club had seen matches in Europe first hand and our idea was to bring a similar culture to stadiums back home," said Bangalore FC's CEO Mustafa Ghouse.

Westwood, a former Manchester United, Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday defender, knew his responsibility would extend much beyond the conventional role of a manager the moment he signed on the dotted line.

In the run up to their first home game in September, he went around distributing pamphlets and spreading the word around local shops and malls. Westwood's performance as the de facto head of the club has not gone unnoticed. He is rumoured to have got offers from English clubs Bury FC and Crawley but has decided to stay put.

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