Bengaluru FC owner Parth Jindal believes ATK Mohun Bagan will be the Blues' biggest rivals on the field in the Indian Super League (ISL).
Speaking in an Instagram live chat with the ISL on Monday, Jindal expressed his feelings about the Blues' high-profile clashes in Indian football and picked out Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan as the team's biggest threat.
He said, "Mohun Bagan still gives me anxiety. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, that rivalry, the kind of passion, there is something about that legacy, history and the colours. You just feel like you are playing history, something bigger than anything."
He feels that the Kolkata giants have helped in keeping the discussion on Indian football alive and following Bengaluru's defeat at the hands of ATK in the semi-final of the ISL last season and the latter's merger with Mohun Bagan, the rivalry is expected to be bigger next season.
"Every time you go to Kolkata to play a football game, I just feel like these guys have kept Indian football alive. While all of us focused on cricket, it is Goa and Kolkata who have kept Indian football alive. My biggest admiration is for their fans. Now that Roy Krishna beat us last year, our biggest rivalry is against ATK Mohun Bagan."
Jindal further reminisced about the starting Bengaluru FC and reserved special praise for the team's former head coach Ashley Westwood, who he believes laid the foundation for success. The English coach left after three years with the club and Jindal recollected how difficult it was to accept his departure.
"I was on my honeymoon when I got the call from Mandar about Ashley not signing the extension. Suddenly, I became stressed out. I went for a long jog. I spoke to Ashley, he had a lot of issues - with structure, pay etc, I can't disclose more. I thanked him and said, one day when we have a stadium, we will have a statue of you in the stadium."
The Blues chose Spanish head coach Albert Roca to replace Westwood and have since adopted an approach influenced by Spanish football.
"Indian players are more of the Spanish mould in terms of physique. Ashley used to play a lot of route one football with a very tight defence. We then said that it is not really getting India anywhere. So we needed to change the way Bengaluru plays so that players would be a lot more confident about keeping the ball.
"We decided we would either go the Dutch route or the Spanish route. Roca's resume came to us, I interviewed him on Skype and we hit it off. He was going to bring his entire team. It was terrible initially in the first season, I remember speaking to Albert. They (the staff) maintained that it takes time. League did not go well but we won the Federation Cup, which was huge."
Bengaluru won their first ISL title two years ago and will be looking get the trophy back from defending champions ATK when ISL kicks off later this year.