Mohammedan Sporting: Eid ushers in double delight for fans this year

The Kolkata Big Three will feature in ISL for the first time, but the black-and-white brigade has to be ready with the resources

In black-and-white: Mohammedan Sporting players with the elusive I-League trophy at Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday (photo: AIFF)
In black-and-white: Mohammedan Sporting players with the elusive I-League trophy at Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday (photo: AIFF)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

For more than a decade now, one has rarely seen jubilant Mohammedan Sporting supporters thronging the terraces at Kolkata's iconic Yuba Bharati Krirangan, popularly Salt Lake Stadium. They have had little to cheer about. All that changed on Saturday, 13 April as it was yesterday once more, with a more than 25,000-strong crowd cheering them on as Andrey Chernyshov’s side lifted its first-ever I-League trophy.

It was as poignant a moment in Indian football history as they come, to see the 133-year-old club, older even than FIFA, with an enviable legacy to boot, manage to turn the corner after losing its status as the third arm of the Kolkata ‘Big Three’.

From being down in the dumps at the end of the 2013-14 season when the black-and-white brigade were relegated to the second tier of the I-League, it has bounced back in style to earn a promotion to the elite Indian Super League (ISL) for the 2024-25 season.

‘’Mohammedan Sporting’s promotion to the ISL by virtue of being the I-League 2023-24 champion is a big positive for Indian football. This is a club older even than FIFA. Given its dedicated fan base across the country, Mohammedan Sporting’s entry into the ISL will certainly do good for India’s top league and bring spectators to the ground,’’ All India Football Federation (AIFF) president Kalyan Choubey said.

A great advertisement for the football heritage of the City of Joy — the only city to boast three clubs in the marquee league, with Sporting now joining Mohun Bagan Super Giant and Emami East Bengal.

There is, however, a catch: with no relegation still in place in the ISL, the black-and-white brigade is required to fork out a hefty license fee to make the grade as well as raise the team budget at least four-fold (from around Rs 12 crore annually for I-League) to build a competitive side. The hunt is already on for sponsors, and according to media reports, current investor Bunkerhill Group is in talks with a foreign investor.

While it will be a challenge for the club’s board of directors in the coming months, this Eid must have been extra special for their passionate supporters. “Yes, it is the end of a long wait,” Mohammedan Sporting board of directors chairperson Dipak Singh told AIFF media last week. “I feel proud because we planned to raise a team with young and talented Indian footballers, along with capable and effective foreign recruits.

“We didn’t believe in having an exorbitant budget or going on an expensive buying spree in the transfer market. We looked for a balanced side with solid bench strength. The result is in front of you,” said the Gurgaon-based supremo of the historic club, who also runs a taekwondo academy and a cricket club in the capital.

The long whistle at the end of the match against Shillong Lajong FC in Shillong on 6 April 2024 was much more than the curtain coming down on a 90-minute match. It was the end of a wait spanning 27 years, to wear a crown that the team wanted badly, but which had remained elusive.

The encouraging signs were hard to ignore over the past few years when the club clinched back-to-back Calcutta Football League (CFL) titles from 2021 to 2023. There was a semblance of hope among fans since the 2021 success ended a 40-year wait for local dominance in a competition where Sporting figures prominently in the roll of honour. The sequence of five titles, which it won in a row between 1934 and 1938, is a major highlight for researchers of Indian football history.

A tough road lies ahead for them but for now, it’s a pleasure to have them back where they belonged!


Calcutta Football League (14 times): 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1940, 1941, 1948, 1957, 1967, 1981, 2021, 2022, 2023 (the first Indian team to win the CFL)
IFA Shield (six times): 1936, 1941, 1942, 1957, 1971, 2013
Durand Cup (two times): 1940, 2013. (The first Indian team to win the Durand Cup)
Rovers Cup (six times): 1940, 1956, 1959, 1980 (joint champions with East Bengal), 1984, 1987
Federation Cup (two times): 1983, 1984.
DCM Trophy (four times): 1958, 1961, 1964, 1980
Stafford Cup (four times): 1968, 1970, 1981 (Joint champions with East Bengal), 1991
Bordoloi Trophy (six times): 1969, 1970, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1991
Independence Day Cup, Nowgong (three times): 1969, 2007, 2009
Sait Nagjee Trophy (four times): 1971, 1984, 1989, 1992
All India Governors Gold Cup, Sikkim (three times): 1980, 2016, 2019
Kalinga Cup (twice): 1991, 1992
Sri Krishna Gold Cup, Patna (four times): 1958, 1959, 1965, 1966
Aga Khan Gold Cup, Dhaka: 1960 (first Indian team to win a club tournament abroad)

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