Grandest of stages beckons live wire Vineeth

Among the players to make a mark early under Bengaluru FC’s new dispensation was C.K. Vineeth. It took the striker all of seven minutes into Albert Roca’s first game in charge, as he scored the lone goal which would separate his side from Tampines Rovers over two legs of the AFC Cup quarterfinal.

C.K Vineeth has been playing as the sole striker for Bengaluru FC.   -  K.Murali Kumar

Among the players to make a mark early under Bengaluru FC’s new dispensation was C.K. Vineeth. It took the striker all of seven minutes into Albert Roca’s first game in charge, as he scored the lone goal which would separate his side from Tampines Rovers over two legs of the AFC Cup quarterfinal.

Since then, the 28-year-old has been rewarded with starts in every game BFC has played. When he takes the field against Air Force Club in the AFC Cup final in Doha, it will no doubt be the biggest occasion of them all.

“No Indian club has ever reached this far. I’m proud of where we are,” said Vineeth. “All the hard work we’ve put in for over three years is showing.”

Even as Roca and his staff have set about changing the team’s playing style, Vineeth has been trusted to continue in the role of a striker.

“I started as a winger but it was Ashley [Westwood], the previous manager, who thought I would be better utilised as a striker,” he said. “Under Roca too, I still continue to be a striker. My job is pretty simple even now, press hard in the final third, run for the loose ball, help your strike partner and above all score goals.”

“I have improved leaps and bounds after signing for BFC. Ashley used to say just one thing: 'Play to your strengths.' And that message still stays with me. Earlier, I had the habit of dribbling past players a lot. But now, that’s come down a lot.”

The possession play which Spaniard Roca favours though wasn’t easy to master, Vineeth felt. “Frankly it’s hard,” he said. “From the outside it’s beautiful to the eye, but only the players know how hard it is to run up and down, get to the ball, pass, get into a free position and keep doing it for 90 minutes.”

“But having said that, we are all hard working. If this is what the coach wants from us, we’re here to deliver.”

Vineeth’s inspiration here is none other than Sunil Chhetri.

“He’s like a big brother,” Vineeth said. “We all know he’s a striker by nature, but now plays on the wings upfront. So if a player like him can adapt to what the coach wants, then who are we.”

The admiration though is mutual. Before the semifinal against Johor Darul Ta’zim, Chhetri had called Vineeth the “live wire” of the team.

“He is the guy to whom if I say on the pitch, ‘Let’s do this’, there is never a no,” Chhetri had said. “Initially he wasn’t in the playing eleven. He used to come in as a substitute and still do well. As far as commitment is concerned there is no one better. He is fast, has stamina and is so hard working. And now he is scoring goals. He is so vital.”

Doha on Saturday will be the grandest of stages to reinforce all of this.

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