Forwards Bidyashagar Singh and Sivasakthi Narayanan were included in Indian Super League (ISL) side Bengaluru FC’s 22-man squad for the ongoing 2021 Durand Cup.
Bidyashagar, who won the golden boot in the I-League last season with TRAU FC, opened his Bengaluru account in the AFC Cup last month after having completed a switch to the ISL side in the summer.
Sivasakthi, 20, had set the Bangalore Super Division alight last season with his goalscoring exploits, made his senior team debut in the AFC Cup.
They are among the seven players — Roshan Singh, Leon Augustine, Ajith Kumar, Parag Shrivas and Ajay Chhetri — who took part in the continental competition, where BFC exited in the group stage.
The 130th edition of Durand Cup marks the Blues’ third appearance in the competition, with Bengaluru having made it to the semifinals once, losing out to Salgaocar on penalties in their debut campaign in 2014.
According to Bengaluru, the squad, a mix of first-team players and Blue Colts, has as many as 10 players from the BFC B team who are yet to make their senior team bow.
The squad also features two U18 players in Louis Macarton Nickson and Lalthangliana, as part of the club’s continuous player development philosophy.
“We’re looking at the Durand Cup as a fantastic chance for our young players to get exposure in competitive games, as the tournament has several good teams from the first and second divisions, as well as the teams from the army,” said Marco Pezzaiuoli, head coach of Bengaluru.
“Our young players are getting closer to the first team and maybe after this tournament, we could have more youngsters making a case for a spot in the starting eleven with the first team,” he added.
The Blues’ most recent appearance came in the 2019 edition, where they finished second in their group. Naushad Moosa, assistant to Pezzaiuoli, will step into the role of coach for the tournament, with Rajan Mani – who serves as assistant coach for the BFC Reserves – donning the same role for the Durand Cup.
The Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan (VYBK), Mohun Bagan Club Ground and the Kalyani Stadium are the three venues hosting matches during the Durand Cup, with the Blues grouped alongside Kerala Blasters, Indian Navy and Delhi FC in Group C.
The Blues begin their campaign with a clash against Kerala Blasters on Wednesday at the VYBK.
Bengaluru FC full squad
Goalkeepers: Lara Sharma, Sharon Padattil; Defenders: Parag Shrivas, Robin Yadav, Harpreet Singh, Jagdeep Singh, Ajith Kumar, Namgyal Bhutia, Wungngayam Muirang, Naorem Roshan Singh; Midfielders: Thoi Singh, Bekey Oram, Damaitphang Lyngdoh, Ajay Chhetri, Biswa Darjee, Macarton Louis Nickson; Forwards: Bidyashagar Singh, Leon Augustine, Akashdeep Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, Sivasakthi Narayanan, Lalthangliana