Recently, the 144-year-old tournament concluded its 2022 edition, with Bengaluru FC winning it for the first time.
Indian Captain Sunil Chhetri, who has waited for his all career to win this tournament, finally had his hands on one of the most famous trophies in India.
The oldest football tournament in Asia, Durand Cup, is home to multiple sporting stories and is seen as the birthplace of legends. One such story this year is of Sivasakthi Narayanan, who scored the winning goal for Bengaluru FC.
Coming from the ranks of the youth system of BFC, Siva has been making strides for some time, and with five goals in a title-winning campaign, he has finally arrived.
Talking to The Bridge, Siva said about Durand Cup, “It is a big tournament and I knew this was my chance to shine. I am thrilled that I can contribute to the team and it feels good to be the champions.”
Siva belongs to the small town of Kandanur in the Sivaganga district. A city famously known for being the home of Indian politician P. Chidambaram, Kandanur has a huge footballing culture, with 7-side football being the most popular.
“I started with playing in mud grounds. One day I heard about trials being held, so I went with my brother and gave the trials. After the selection to Noble Academy, I used to play the 7-side tournaments for my academy and it used to be fun playing with my brother. We used to play in mud ground but it was mostly 7-side football,” says Siva about his footballing journey.
“Later, I joined Raman Vijayan Academy in Chennai and I started playing at the U-18 level. I scored a lot of goals at the U-18 level and that is where Bengaluru FC came calling. Initially, I thought it was a prank but after signing the papers, I knew this is not a dream or a prank, it is true,” Sivasakthi feels privileged to be playing for Bengaluru FC.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for the young footballer. Staying away from home for so long and making sacrifices, Siva Sakthi is thankful to her family and BFC for support.
“I am close to my mother and the team has also supported me always. Seniors like Sunil Bhai, Gurpreet Bhai and many others always keep me motivated. I have learnt not to take pressure from them and be focused on my work. These people have taught me how to deal with things off the pitch.”
Playing with someone like Sunil Chhetri is a dream for many, and Siva Sakthi scored a goal which gifted Chhetri the missing trophy from his cabinet. Talking about the moment, Siva says, ” Sunil Chhetri is my favourite footballer and being around him motivates me to do well. It was an amazing moment for me and I am very happy that I scored a goal in the final.”
In his first-ever start, Siva Sakthi was against a towering Mourtada Fall, but the kid from Tamilnadu didn’t back down to his giant opponent. Using his pace, Siva Sakthi troubled the defender throughout the game and eventually got better of him to score the winner.
With so much limelight around now him, Siva talks about his life after signing with BFC, “I have grown as a player. I used to play in mud grounds and now it is very professional. I understand tactics and the gameplay better now. I believe that I have to work harder now since people know me now and keep my proving by giving my best.”
“People back home are happy that one of them can play on such a big stage and such big names. With me playing at this level, kids back home will take up football more seriously and I hope to see more players coming from my city,” Siva tells about his impact on his community.
Tournaments like Durand Cup are the perfect place to discover young and exciting talents. These tournaments provide the national team with a huge pool of talent.
The BFC youngster explains his national team aspirations: “I want to play for the national team but right now it is not running on my mind. At the moment, I want to play and do well for BFC in ISL and earn my place in the national team.”
“I haven’t done extraordinary. It is all hard work and anyone who plays with a serious mind and works hard can reach here. Coming from a small city in Tamilnadu, all I did was put my head down, work hard and grab every opportunity which comes my way,” Sivasakthi ends with his mantra of success.