For the 38-year-old Chhetri, who is in the twilight of his career, the Durand Cup is missing from his trophy cabinet. The same goes for Bengaluru FC, which has won all major Indian competitions since its inception in 2013, but not the Durand Cup.
BFC was the 2018-19 ISL Champion and also has six other top domestic titles to their name, and will compete for their seventh.
“It’s very, very special. It’s one of the oldest tournaments that is very big in itself. As a club we didn’t win it,” Chhetri said of Bengaluru FC, which has won the I-League twice, the Indian Super League once and Federation Cup/Super Cup three times.
“More so for me… Also individually I have not won the Durand Cup at all. I have been lucky enough to win many tournaments, almost all tournaments one can win in India and the Durand Cup is missing.” Chhetri said in the run-up to the tournament.
“So for me it’s an extra motivation. We as a club will do our best. Last year our young boys gave a good picture of themselves, we want to improve that”, he said about the show of their last edition where a young Blues- side was eliminated in sudden death by eventual champion FC Goa.
A resolute, rough outing, aided by an own goal from Hyderabad FC’s Odei Onaindia, took Bengaluru FC to their first-ever Durand Cup final here on Thursday.
MCFC, on the other hand, ousted local heavyweights Mohammedan Sporting in the other semi-final, to set up a clash between two former ISL champions.
Players like Javier Hernandez, Roy Krishna and Chhetri up front will have taken on the task, with Des Buckingham’s MCFC at their best so far, especially after the inclusion of Senegalese defender Mourtada Fall.
They also have the tournament’s highest scorer Lallianzuala Chhangte (seven goals) in their ranks and someone of the quality of Greg Stewart who ranks the midfield with authority.
“Look, I think we have to play as a team tomorrow,” said Simon Grayson, BFC’s England coach on the eve of the final.
“They play a lot of passes. We have to be good tomorrow to stop the opponent. We have to be careful and make sure we play better.
“We have no injuries. Our goal is to win the trophy without injuries. We are in the final and we will make sure we win the trophy because we have the mentality to win,” he added.
Islanders coach Buckingham is well aware of Roy Krishna’s strength from his Wellington Phoenix days in the A-League.
“It’s not just about the individual skills that Bengaluru has, but also the attacking ability they possess when the players join.
“We will have our game plan and I will focus on what we do with the ball and without the ball. We will focus on our approach to how we attack and defend,” said the MCFC coach.
West Bengal Governor La Ganesan, Army Chief General Manoj Pande and Sports Minister Aroop Biswas and other dignitaries will attend the final.
The final day also features an elaborate closing ceremony with patriotic songs played by bands.
There will also be air combat exercises, dance performances of Kalaripayattu, Northeast Fusions and Bhangra.
Kick-off: 6:00 PM IST.