Rino Anto hails Westwood legacy

Bengaluru FC defender Rino Anto has praised former coach Ashley Westwood for the professionalism he instilled into the club during his three-year stint.

Rino Anto has been with Bengaluru FC since its inception.   -  Vivek Bendre

On available evidence, Bengaluru FC has taken to new manager Albert Roca’s methods like a duck to water.

But to celebrate its latest success in reaching the AFC Cup final – a first for an Indian side – without recognising the services of its previous coach Ashley Westwood, under whom the club won two I-League titles, one Federation Cup and also made the quarterfinals of the current AFC campaign, would be unfair.

On Thursday, a day after BFC’s victory over defending champion Johor Darul Ta’zim, defender Rino Anto, who has been with the club since its inception, indicated just that.

“He is a big part [of the success],” said Anto of Westwood. “He brought professionalism to the club. Yes, he left after three years but the professional approach he instilled will be here for long.”

In his career, the 28-year-old right-back has played at clubs such as Mohun Bagan and Salgaocar. But BFC, he conceded, had a special allure. “There are teams in India with great history but BFC is special,” he said. “For example, even for practice they brought the GPS tracker and other stuff. We knew how much we ran, how much rest we needed, how hydrated we were etc.”

The structure Westwood built was what was helping the club adapt to Roca’s methods rather quickly too, Anto felt. “Roca’s footballing system is a bit different but we are able to adapt because we know how to be professional about things.” he said. “It also helped conduct ourselves well off the field. If we are not doing the right things off the pitch, we can’t be the best on it.”

In fact, in 2015, when he was picked up by Atletico de Kolkata for the second season of the Indian Super League for a whopping sum or Rs. 90 lakhs, he had credited Westwood more than anybody else. After the latest high, which he termed his “best moment” till date, his admiration has only grown.

“I never thought I would reach this level,” Anto said. “Ashley gave me a new lease of life. Roca has now come in and he is from Barcelona. So I want to learn as much as possible and grow further.”

The first challenge in this mission will be in two weeks’ time when BFC takes on Iraq’s Air Force Club in the AFC Cup final.

“We had never beaten Johor before,” Anto pointed out. “Now we have and that has given great confidence. We will go for the win. Our dream is to win the trophy.”

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