I-League 2019-20 season an acid test for East Bengal and Mohun Bagan
With Chennai City and Gokulam Kerala assembling strong squads, the Kolkata giants face a proper fight if they are to bring the title to Kolkata… I-League has not been a happy hunting ground for the two Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal in the last decade.
Other than Mohun Bagan’s I-League triumph in 2014-15 season, Kolkata which used to be the hub of Indian club football at one point of time did not get the taste of India’s coveted domestic title.
The National Football League (NFL), which started in 1996, was completely dominated by the two Kolkata giants in the initial years. Out of the first eight editions, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan won the title six times. Editors’ Picks Manchester United currently have no plans to sack Solskjaer Messi is Barcelona’s saviour once more as Griezmann flops on Atletico return Same old Arsenal! Ljungberg takes the reins but the Gunners are still a mess Just not good enough! Solskjaer enters Man Utd endgame after Aston Villa draw
But since the I-League era began in 2007, Indian football saw the domination of Goan clubs with Dempo SC spearheading it.
Under Armando Colaco’s tutelage, the Panjim-based club won the competition a record five teams. Churchill Brothers and Salgaocar too won it twice each, thereby completing sidelining the two Kolkata giants.
This decade saw the emergence of a new club Bengaluru FC. Even though the Blues’ stint with the I-League was only for four years, they had managed to bag the coveted title twice in that time.
While Mohun Bagan can still boast of the 2014-15 season, East Bengal have not tasted success in the NFL/I-League for the past 16 years. The Red and Golds have come agonisingly close to winning the title on several occasions but finally failed to bring home the trophy.
Last season, East Bengal lost the title on the final matchday as they finished one point behind leaders Chennai City FC who walked away with the title.
This year too the Kolkata sides will face stiff competition from clubs like Gokulam Kerala FC who had begun the season by winning the Durand Cup in Kolkata, beating East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the semifinal and final respectively.
The Kozhikode-based side have recruited some very good foreign players and are one of the favourites to win the league. Defending champions Chennai City are also in the mix, having kept most of their title-winning squad intact. They have also started the season with a win.
The Kolkata sides face a tough fight if they want to bring back the I-League title. Certainly East Bengal will be hard-pressed to win the elusive title should they decide to move to the Indian Super League in the near future. The fact that they have never won the I-League despite being one of the top spenders in the league is always likely to be a blot on their history.