The City of Joy is fielding a new-look team this year, with the two-time champions ATK (formerly Atletico de Kolkata) under the management of former Manchester United winger Steve Coppell. The inaugural champions had a torrid time last season, finishing a lowly 9th. The Kolkata franchisee looks set for a fresh start under a fresh management this season. Former head coach of Mohun Bagan FC, Sanjoy Sen has been hired as the mentor to rope in the National talent. The ace veteran has started off solidly, bringing in ex-ATK stars, Arnab Mondal and Cavin Lobo among others.
The mecca of football in India, Kolkata’s Yuva Bharati Kriyangan is the home ground for the team. The second largest stadium in Asia in terms of seating capacity can turn out to be a formidable fortress, when the two sets of raucous fans from East Bengal and Mohun Bagan join hands in their support of their unified city club. The sheer din made by the home crowd can shatter the confidence of the opposition. Ex-Real Zaragoza winger Manuel Lanzarote is expected to lead the side onto the field.
ATK was owned party by the Spanish giants Atletico de Madrid and Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt Ltd for the first three seasons. The latter is a group comprising of ex-Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, Harsh Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka and Utsav Parekh. The club had adopted the ‘Rojiblancos’ colors of the Spanish club - red and white stripes, and continues to use them to this day. After the end of the association with Atletico de Madrid, the club renamed themselves as ATK.
The presence of Sourav Ganguly, who is an icon in the city, acts as an unifying factor for the otherwise greatly divided fanbase of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan. The club logo is a tiger-phoenix over a shield accompanied by 5 stars. The tiger denotes ferocity of Bengal, the phoenix the perennialism of football in Kolkata and the five stars represent the five owners of the club (including former owners Atletico de Kolkata).
Trajectory in the ISL
ATK has always been a formidable team in the ISL. The two-time champions have always been an attacking threat, both under the tutelage of Habas and Molina. Whilst their marquee signings haven’t had the best of tournaments apart from a certain Luis Garcia, the rest of the team, especially stalwarts like Borja Fernendez and Ian Hume had provided the necessary ammunition for success. The local boys too have proved to be a handful, with Mohammed Rafique, Cavin Lobo and Sanju Pradhan being a thorn down the opposition's neck for three long years.
The exit of Atletico de Madrid had proved to be a curse, with the Teddy Sheringham managed team finishing a lowly 9th in the league, it’s worst finish ever in 4 years. Marquee captain Robbie Keane had scored 8 goals but looked out of sorts for the red and white brigade. The might of Kolkata had fallen badly, and the fans can only hope that the bruises heal in time before 29th September, 2018.
The inaugural winners of the Hero Indian Super League needs no introduction. Kolkata is crazy about football and it seemed only fitting that it’s home team became the first champions as India progressed to become a proper footballing nation.
The team had reached the play-offs the next season in 2014, and beat Kerala Blasters on penalties to win the 2016 edition.
In the inaugural edition of the Hero Super Cup 2018, it lost in the quarter finals to FC Goa. The 2017-2018 season was a bad year for the Kolkata team. Finishing 9th and putting on terrible performances match after match saw the famously loyal Kolkata crowd turn on them. The attendance was at all time low as the fans lost enthusiasm in their home team.
Major players in ISL 2018
The captain of ATK Manuel Lanzarote had a splendid season with Pune FC last year, netting 13 in 19 appearances. Nigerian Kalu Uche will be the frontman and although he is prone to making silly mistakes in front of goal, he can be a deadly force on his day. Andre Bikey’s presence in the defence will calm nerves. The addition of Indian heroes like Arnab Mondal, Lobo and Pronay Halder gives ATK a solid look on paper.
|Year||Matches played||Win ||Loss||Draw||Points||Final Position|
|2017||18||4||10||4||16||9th in League|