| Ashley Westwood |
New Delhi: On a day when the triumphant Bengaluru FC coach Ashley Westwood was accorded a rousing reception at the Bangalore airport by the club fans, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) decided to hand a four-match suspension to the British coach for his unsporting behaviour in the I League tie against Mohun Bagan in Calcutta on April 6.
Westwood has also been slapped with a fine of Rs 50,000 by the disciplinary committee of the AIFF. In the match against Mohun Bagan, Westwood was sent to the stands in the first half for continuous dissent. He was later accused of breaking a glass pane at the Salt Lake Stadium.
At 37, Westwood is the youngest ever coach to guide a team to the I League title. He is also the third foreign coach in I League history to bag the winners’ medal. Serbian coach Zoran Djordjevic and Moroccan Karim Bencherifa are the other two foreigners who have this achievement.
Under Westwood, debutants Bengaluru FC have closed the deal in the most convincing manner, with one round of matches yet to be played. The Bangalore team’s showing was perhaps the best ever by a newly-formed side, after the now defunct FC Kochin’s stunning successes in 1997.
According to a federation official, Westwood, who was not allowed to sit at the technical bench in Bengaluru’s title-clinching tie against Dempo on Monday, would also have to stay out in the concluding match against Sporting Clube de Goa on April 28 in Margao.
“The suspension would carry over to the next season in the I League. Westwood would be barred from the bench in the first two matches in case he coaches any I League team,” the official said.
The suspension may also affect Westwood’s chances of winning the Best Coach award in the I League, an honour that normally goes to the coach of the title winning side.
While all other individual awards in the I League are decided on the basis of voting by the coaches and captains of the participating teams, the chief national coach is asked to nominate the winner of the Best Coach award.
Once a trainee with Manchester United, where he was a member of the FA Youth Cup winning side, Westwood started his coaching career in Blackpool before joining Blackburn Rovers. He survived there for only 67 days before accepting the post of chief coach in Bengaluru FC.
In Bangalore, Westwood said it was an absolute honour to lead the team to the title. “Any championship title is a huge success. I wouldn’t compare it to anything else but it’s a fantastic honour and I am really proud and privileged to be the head coach.
“It’s right up there with the most successful things I have done throughout my career. It’s the greatest feeling in the world and I wouldn’t take any shine off it by comparing it with anything else,” said Westwood when asked if he thought his success at BFC was the biggest in his career as player or coach.
Meanwhile, in Bangalore, Bengaluru FC CEO CEO Parth Jindal, said on Wednesday, that they were aiming to become the first India team to qualify for the AFC Champions League.
"This has been a fantastic journey for all of us at the club. The fact that we are I-League champions has yet to sink in. Things will only get bigger and better from here… One thing is for sure, we are not going let go of the title soon… Also, We want to be the first India team to qualify for the AFC Champions League," said Jindal.
While the title has been conquered, there is an individual award at stake and that could also come Bengaluru's way.