India Football Inc Aiming high
Its time to turn “desi” guys!! We have read a plethora of stuff at SK and www-wide about foreign soccer in terms of English Premier league (EPL), Federation Cup etc. Its high time now that we also read a little about National Football League (NFL) of India. I capitulate to the fact that the fervor, thrill, action and enthusiasm that we often witness in EPL games lacks in our national league games, however still, I think it prudent to give it a shot and write whatever little I know of Indian Soccer and the clubs associated therein, to resuscitate the oblivious and inconspicuous spirit of “desi” football.
National Football League (NFL) is a football league competition in India, organized into three divisions and popularly known as I-League, nowadays. This I-League focuses completely on turning Indian Football into a professional sport. There are close to 25 national clubs who play the NFL and around a whopping 120 football clubs overall, irrespective of their strength, clout and glam, of which East Bengal, Churchill Brothers, Mohun Bagan, Mahindra United, Salgaocar and JCT being the top clubs nationally.
East Bengal Club, now known as Kingfisher East Bengal Club after United Breweries obtained a 50% stake in the club to promote their brand Kingfisher beer, is the most successful club of India till date. It has created history not only nationally but world wide, many a times. It has/had players of the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia, Subrata Pal, Mehrajuddin Wadoo, Syed Rahim Nabi, Alvito D’Cunha and many more. The club was regarded as “The Best Club of India” in 1951 by the Footbal Association of England. It is the 1st Indian Club to win the prestigious IFA Shield for 3 consecutive years (1949-51) and also the 1st 2 win consecutive NFL titles (2003-04). It has a record of winning Durand Cup 16 times and DCM Trophy 7 times. The club created history in 1970 by defeating Pas Club of Iran in the IFA Shield final. It was the 1st victory of an Indian Club over a foreign team since Independence. It is also the only club in India to participate in Asian Club Championship / AFC Cup 10 times. In 2003, the club made an impression world wide by defeating BEC Tero Sasana in Jakarta at the LG Asean Cup final. The club’s homeground is the Salt Lake Stadium, Asia’s biggest composite stadium and one of its kind in Asia. Apart from many current players who play for the national team, the club boats of its former national team players as well like Mohd. Salim, Subhash Bhowmick, Majid Bhishkar, Emeka Ezeugo, John Devine and many more. East Bengal carry on an intense rivalry with their arch rivals Mohun Bagan.
Mohun Bagan Athletic Club (also known as National Club of India), popularly known as Mohun Bagan, is one of the oldest clubs of Asia formed in as early as 1889. Wow! Thats really a news folks! The football team of this club has been hugely successful in having won many trophies of national signifance like Federation Cup (India), Durand Cup, Rovers Cup and IFA Shield. It is also the 1st club to defeat an European team (East Yorkshire Regiment) in 1911. The club’s formation is a long history, so long that its better to leave if out of scope of the context! Though the club’s most renowned sport is Football, it also has Hockey, Tennis, Badminton, Athletics and Cricket in its schedules. An know what? Cricketers like Manoj Tiwari and Wridhiman Saha are from this club only and others like Lakshmipathy Balaji, Virat Kohli and Chaminda Vaas also had a stint in this club in few of its seasons. A postage stamp was issued by Govt. Of India in 1989 during the club’s centenary to commemorate the club’s 1911 historic victory and it was then only that the then PM, Late Shri Rajiv Gandhi honoured the club with the title “National Club of India”. To add to its list of achievements, the club has also been chosen by FIFA to be among the top 11 clubs world wide to form the Elite Task Force for club Football. Other representatives of this task force include like of Man United, Bayern Munich and River Plate. If I start writing down about all that has been achieved by this club so far, my fingers would probably start paining due to too much of typing on the keyboard! Still, few things are too conspicuous to be ignored about this club. It also has on rolls few foreign players like Marcos and Jose Barreto from Brazil, Ryuji Sueoka from Japan and Chidi Edeh from Nigeria. Its sponsors include UB group with the brand McDowells’, Reebok, Rice Education and SAIL. FIFA published about Mohun Bagan on its official website for the club winning 10 matches in a row during the 2008-09 I-League. Its the only club whose 2 members later became the Governors of West Bengal. It is the only 3rd club in the world after Man United and Barcelona FC to have launched a co-branded credit card on their name (ICICI Mohun Bagan Credit Card). Its the only club with which 2 legends of Football, Pele and Maradona, can be associated – in 1977, Pele’s Cosmos played a friendly match against Mohun Bagan and in 2008, Maradona visited the club. And this last one but not at all the least to be mentioned is tha match between Bayern Munich and Mohun Bagan in 2008. Though Mohun Bagan lost, they drew a lot of applaud for their performance from the entire Bayern Munich team.
So, this an adumbration of the 2 top Football clubs of India at present. And to be honest, I am so delighted to have written this since these are those honorary facts about our prestigious Football Clubs which are barely known. And after having known this all about potential these clubs hold with them, I dream of India winning the FIFA World Cup One Day. I would not be surprised if you mock at me and think of me as a lunatic after sharing this dream of mine with you! Relax, just kidding! But one thing is for sure people – to make that One day a reality, Indian Football badly needs us. And even if some of you do not think this is true, am sorry since episode number 2 on the Football Clubs is coming soon!