Looking at the biggest rivalries in the Indian Super League
The world of football thrives on rivalries. Riveting banter, fierce competition and exciting, competitive football all leads to delight for the viewers. A lot of these rivalries are based on history, with most of them also regionally.
After all, the atmosphere at games like Liverpool-Manchester United, Real Madrid-Barcelona, Inter Milan-AC Milan etc. gives you chills down your spine. This is what the fans long for and the mere prospect of these games gets them jumping with joy at the prospect of trumping their rivals.
Just a season old, the Indian Super League too has started building on some very gripping, fitting rivalries that have engrossed local fans and the viewers alike, not to miss on the banter that has already started taking shape with the faithful taking a dig at the opponents.
Although still early days, the rivalries that have come into its own are:
Atletico de Kolkata - NorthEast United FC
One of the early rivalries in the competition is certainly the Eastern derby. With both teams boasting passionate fan bases, this is one contest to look out for. Both stadiums are always filled to capacity, irrespective of the day, date, time, or even their team’s form.
Although the teams are far adrift in terms of quality and table position, the heat is on when these two teams lock horns, with the games played at great pace. The head to head record is strongly tilted in favour of the Kolkata based side who have won both the fixtures as of now.
NorthEast United FC, although based in Guwahati, connects the entire Northeast region, comprising of the eight sister states and enjoy huge support, not only in the home games, but even at away matches.
They have been one of the few teams focused on promoting local, young talent and have continued to follow the philosophy in the second season.
The likes of Robin Gurung, Boathang Haokip, Aiborlang Khongjee, Siam Hangal, Holicharan Narzary, and Sanju Pradhan along with a few others, form the core of the team along with experienced foreign signings.
There were initial doubts about the support for the Atletico de Kolkata franchise as the Kolkata fans were already loyalists of either East Bengal or Mohun Bagan. But as it panned out, Atletico enjoy great home support and their triumph in the first season only helped.
They have very limited local representation with Arnab Mondal being the only notable player from the East. The teams are yet to go head to head in this edition of the ISL, but with both having strengthened this time around, it makes for an exciting battle.
Kerala Blasters - Chennaiyin FC
The other fierce rivalry making rounds in the ISL is the one between the Southern powerhouses, Kerala Blasters and Chennaiyin FC. Both teams did reasonably well in the first edition and have started strong in the second season as well as they have backed their strong transfer business with good performances on the field.
Kerala Blasters clearly have managed to attract the most passionate crowds and their fans have been nothing short of sensational. Chennaiyin FC too, get good numbers in for support but they aren’t comparable to their Southern rivals yet.
While the first edition saw neither team having a lot of local talent, the second season paints a different picture where Kerala Blasters somewhat wiped away the supporters’ grief of missing out on Anas Edathodika and Rino Anto by drafting local talents CK Vineeth and Mohammed Rafi, who have done exceedingly well in so far in the season.
Chennaiyin FC, on the other hand, have just managed to get their hands on a solitary local player in Indian International Dhanpal Ganesh, who has come in to the ISL on the back of a good season with the Pune FC in the I-League.
Chennaiyin have had the better of their state rivals having won three out of the four encounters so far. However, it’s the men in yellow that had the last laugh as they got the better of the Chennai team in last year’s semi-final with the all-important goal in extra time to reach the finals.
While Chennaiyin FC seem to have built on last year and strengthened, having retained the likes of Stiven Mendoza and Elano Blumer, and adding Thoi Singh and Fikru to the mix, Kerala Blasters too have gone out strong in the market.
The Sachin Tendulkar co-owned side have inducted some good players in the form of Peter Ramage, Sanchez Watt, Chris Dagnall and Barcelona youth product Josu Currias, in addition to ATK’s star Indian performer last season, Cavin Lobo.
They have also retained their rocks Sandesh Jhingan and Mehtab Hossain and have a widely experienced man at the helm in Peter Taylor, who is known to grind out results. It would be interesting to see how the games are once these two are up against each other as these are definitely two of the most anticipated games of the season.
FC Pune City – Mumbai City FC
The highly anticipated Maharashtra derby between the two is one between teams with the closest proximity in the league and is hence one of the strongest rivalries. The highly anticipated encounter though, has been mostly one-sided with one team completely dominating the other.
While last season’s first Maharashtra derby saw Mumbai City FC rout Pune City FC 5-0, courtesy of an Andre Moritz hattrick, the reverse fixture saw Pune City FC come out triumphant 2-0, thanks to Dudu Omagbemi’s second-half brace.
The second season of the ISL too saw an engrossing Maharashtra derby with Pune coming out on top again with a 3-1 scoreline. New recruit Tuncay Sanli and last year’s consistent performer Israil Gurung were the heroes for the Hrithik Roshan co-owned outfit.
Both teams underperformed last season and never really looked like competing for the top four spots. However, this season, the story definitely looks different.
FC Pune City have built a very strong side and are one of the favourites, at least on paper, having recruited the likes of Adrian Mutu, Tuncay Sanli, Kalu Uche, Didier Zokora, Nickey Shorey and Roger Johnson, along with Indian superstars Eugenson Lyngdoh and Jackichand Singh.
Mumbai City FC on the other hand, do not seem as strong, though they too have built on last year, having managed to draft in Salim Benachour, Sunil Chhetri, Gabriel Fernandes, and Frédéric Piquionne, while having retained Subrata Pal and Nicolas Anelka.
Neither team have a lot of local talent, but have still managed to pull decent crowds to the stadiums, putting together what have been interesting matches.
The teams are yet to play once again this season and that should provide an opportunity for Mumbai City FC to get the win and level the overall score, while FC Pune City would look to build upon their head to head advantage.