Meet Bashundhara Kings ahead of their AFC Cup matches against Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan
Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) outfits Bengaluru FC and ATK Mohun Bagan will take on Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings in the AFC Cup (Group D, South Zone) on August 21 and August 24 respectively. Founded in 2013, the Bangladeshi club won promotion to the country’s top-flight league in 2017 and created history when they won the title in their first season itself in 2019. After the Covid-19 pandemic led to the abandonment of the season in 2020 after a few matches, they sealed the 2021 title with four matches to go earlier this month. Ahead of the upcoming matches against the Indian clubs, here is the lowdown on the Bangladeshi club in terms of their history, some key players as well as their head coach.
Nickname: The Kings
Home Stadium: Sheikh Kamal Stadium
Bashundhara Kings won their first professional football trophy in late 2017 when they secured the Bangladesh Championship League as well as promotion to the top-flight. Their first season in top-flight football (2019) was even more memorable as they went on to clinch the title. The Kings lost only once that season -- against Sheikh Russel Krira Chakra -- in what was a dominant league performance. This earned them a maiden appearance in the 2020 AFC Cup group stage, where they beat Maldives’ TC Sports Club 5-1 in their first match before the competition was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They have also won the Bangladesh Federation Cup twice, in 2019/20 and 2020/21.
Khaled Shafiei (Defender)
Khaled Shafiei joined the club in 2020 and has since been an important player for them. The 33-year-old turned out for a number of Iranian clubs early in his career, finishing runners-up with Tractor FC in the Persian Gulf Pro League during the 2014-15 season. In 2017, he joined South Korean side FC Seoul, becoming the first Iranian player to feature in the K League. After joining the Bangladeshi outfit, the experienced Iranian centre-back helped them win the Federation Cup. In the ongoing Bangladesh Football Premier League, Shafiei has a goal and two assists to his name in 19 appearances.
Raul Becerra (Forward)
Raul Becerra is one of the best players in the Kings’ forward line. The Argentina-born forward played in Ecuador, Chile, and Qatar before joining the Nilphamari-based outfit in 2020. Becerra was joint top-scorer with five goals in the Kings’ Bangladesh Federation Cup win. The 33-year-old scored the winner in the final against Saif SC as the Kings secured their first trophy in 2021. In the ongoing Premier League, Becerra has 16 goals in 17 games as well as seven assists to his name.
Robson Azevedo da Silva, fondly known as Robinho, joined the club on loan from Brazilian side Fluminense in August 2020. With 19 goals to his name, the 26-year-old attacker is currently the second highest goalscorer in the ongoing Bangladeshi league. He has also provided eight assists so far. The attacker played all his football in Brazil before joining the Bangladeshi outfit. His combination with Becerra in the Kings’ attack is surely one to watch out for.
Head coach: Oscar Bruzon
Oscar Bruzon took charge of the Kings ahead of the 2019 season and has been at the club since then. The Spaniard led them to the league title in his first season in charge, followed up with another earlier this month. He has also coached in India; he was with Mumbai City FC as an assistant coach for the 2015 Hero ISL season. Before that he was with Sporting Clube de Goa as head coach. So, he knows a thing or two about Indian football. In his first season in the Maldives in 2017, Bruzon went on to win the Dhivehi Premier League, Maldives’ FA Cup and President’s Cup with New Radiant SC. Thereafter he took charge of Bashundhara Kings and went from strength to strength.