Roca: 'In five years, BFC will be among the best in Asia'

Bengaluru FC's outgoing manager speaks of his exit, his achievements, and the future

Albert Roca had a successful two-year stint with Bengaluru FC — winning two trophies, reaching the ISL final and constantly doing well in Asia.   -  Sudhakara Jain

Back when he joined Bengaluru FC, two years ago, Albert Roca was asked if he would be able to live up to the standards set by his predecessor, Ashley Westwood. “We can only look forward,” he shrugged. “Let's see at the end of the season if the supporters are as happy as they were last season.”

Four months on from that rainy July day, when he was unveiled before the media, Roca had taken BFC where no Indian club had gone before: into the final of the AFC Cup. The fans, it is safe to say, were reasonably pleased.

A week after leaving BFC, having opted not to renew his two-year deal with the club, Roca told Sportstar, in an email interview from Barcelona, that it was one of the hardest decisions of his career. 

The excerpts:


How tough a decision was it to leave BFC? What made you decide against renewing your deal?

This decision is up there with the toughest I’ve taken in my career. I have left behind a part of my heart in Bengaluru. But I had to put my family first and return to Spain. I have spent the last few years traveling and living everywhere but home. That needed to change.

 

 
"I feel I have done my best in contributing to the betterment of football in the country. I was blessed with a fantastic set of players and I wish I could have given so many of them more chances to play." — Albert Roca
 

 

Was the fixture calendar a factor in your decision -- because you're playing for most of the year if you're in the AFC Cup?

It would be wrong to say the decision was down to the fixture calendar. Yes, it is a hectic calendar, but the decision wouldn’t change if I could shave two months off my schedule.

When did you make your mind up about leaving?

There was still a little bit of the season left when I had decided I would be returning home. For sure, there was still a small window of doubt but as the season came closer to ending, I was certain about my call. I couldn’t keep the management guessing. I have had a fantastic relation with them and I had to respect that.


What was the reaction of the players when you broke the news to them? Did they try to convince you to stay?!

It wasn’t easy for me to tell them. But they understood me and where I was coming from. Like me, so many of them are away from their families and little children. A few of the senior players on the team did try to convince me but they also understood my reason for taking the decision to leave.

Looking back, Albert Roca wishes BFC could have done things slightly differently in the final of the ISL.   -  K. Murali Kumar

When you look back on your time with BFC, what do you think about what you have achieved here? What are you most proud of? And any regrets?

I have been here only two seasons but this team has given me so much to be proud of. We became the first team in India to make an AFC Cup final and that was a special start to my time here. We went on to win two trophies, came so close to winning the ISL and kept doing well in Asia. I wish we could have done things slightly differently in the final of the ISL because we played some fantastic football through the league stage and the semifinal. But that’s football for you.


Do you still feel a sense of hurt about the ISL final?

Like I said, it does hurt because we felt we deserved more from the tournament. But we used that disappointment well and went on to win the Super Cup. It needs a lot of character to bounce back from a disappointment like that and I’m very proud of the way we showed it.


You brought in your own philosophy of football when you arrived. Players like Alvaro Rubio, Edu Garcia and Miku brought something special to India. What kind of impact did you want to make on Indian football and do you feel you were successful?

Albert Roca's tactics and his football philosophy worked for Bengaluru FC.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Whether I was successful or not, I’ll leave that to everyone else to decide! But I feel I have done my best in contributing to the betterment of football in the country. I was blessed with a fantastic set of players and I wish I could have given so many of them more chances to play. But that’s not always possible. I’m happy with the way the boys embraced the philosophy we tried to instil. Even after we had to restructure the team because of the ISL draft, the team stayed true to our style and that was encouraging to see.



What about the future of BFC? Where do you think the club can go from here?

I’m not saying this because I have to but the club has so much potential to grow because of the vision that the owners and the management have and I have no doubt that in the next five years, Bengaluru FC will be up there with the best in Asia. The winning habit is ingrained in this club.


What did you make of Indian football as a whole in the two years you were here — the I-League, the ISL, the U-17 World Cup? Where are we headed as a nation?

If I could sum it up in one word, it would be potential. Ever since I set foot in India, I’ve seen so many encouraging signs and it’s important that everyone involved with the sport harnesses that vibe. The Indian talent is really good and I’m saying this because I’ve seen it.

Finally, is there any particular type of coach you would like to see appointed as your successor?

That’s not really for me to say. I am very sure the management will make the right call as they have with so many things at this club. What I do know is that the new coach, whoever he is, will get the right backing from the management, dressing room and the fans and that is very critical to how successful a coach you can be with a particular team or not. I would like to wish whoever comes in next the best of everything. This club is special and the new manager will see it.

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