We trace how one man’s dream lead to the evolution of one of Delhi’s premier clubs…
In the 1990’s the old city was considered the hub of Delhi football. The Delhi league was ruled by the old city clubs and all the major tournaments were conquered by them. But, in the early 2000’s these clubs started to disappear because of lack of funding and poor facilities. In 2005 a club was starting its journey in Delhi football which would soon be considered a big name in time to come.
The club’s patriarch is B.S. Mehra, a passionate sportsman from his college days in Sri Venkateswara College, he played cricket for his college team and even captained the side in the second year. After finishing his college he started his business in 1999 due to which he got hardly any time for cricket. A busy work schedule and long working hours left him with no time for the sport. But fate had decided something else for him, a friend of Mehra introduced him to football and the memories of playing football in school helped him reconnect with this game again. So, he joined a B Division football club Gorkha Heroes and played there as a right-back. Joining this club brought him closer to football and somehow he generated a passion for this game which lead him to sponsor it and also to take on the additional responsibility of being interim manager. In 2005 Gorkha Heroes became champions of the B Division without losing a single match and got promoted to the A Division. Their superb form continued in the A Division as well as they were crowned champions in 2008-09 keeping their unbeaten record intact. Mehra played a crucial role as he played as a right winger and even scored two goals in that campaign. Under his guidance and mentorship the club touched new heights and finally broke into the top tier of Delhi football and got promoted to the Senior Division.
In the year 2009 Mehra finally realized that it is the right time to take the club under his guidance completely. He started to give more time to club activities and began to dream of making this club one of the best in Delhi and qualifying for the I-League 2nd Division. Following this dream he bought full ownership of the club. He acted as its Chairman and Managing Director and the name was changed to Delhi United FC from Gorkha Heroes to target a wider audience.
In the first year of their participation in the Senior Division they made a huge impact and came runners-up without losing a single match in the 2009-10 season. They defeated City FC with a score of 13-0 in a match which is still the highest scoring game in Delhi’s top flight. In 2010-11 the club focused its attention on the I-League 2nd Division and strengthened their squad by signing big players like Rishi Kapur, Deepak Mehra and other top Delhi university stars. Their hard work finally paid off and they became champions of the Senior Division by defeating Shahdara FC in the Final with a score of 3-2. Winning the Senior Division finally confirmed their participation in the I-League 2nd Division for the 2011-12 campaign. They performed well in the I-League’s second tier and were the best team from North India.
Between 2012-2014 the club were consistent and retained their status as one of the elite clubs in the capital’s top flight. The year 2013 witnessed a slight downturn in fortunes as Mehra lost his father due to prolonged illness and he was not able to give proper attention to club activities.
Now the club is once again back in shape and is aiming to qualify for the I-League. They have started a youth development program in association with the Delhi government in a government school located at Sector -22 Dwarka to promote football among kids. In this program 50% of kids will be from the government school and would be trained for free, while other kids would he trained at minimal cost. They are nurturing young talent and for that they have started three football academies in Delhi in the past two years. These academies have kids in various age categories including U-8,U-12,U-15,U-17,U-19 .
This year they have built a very young squad for the upcoming season with the average age of 24 years and the youngest player being 14 years old ( Leon Khenglawt ) who will be making his debut in the Senior Division. They have also signed some big names like Adolea Hasan from ONGC and retained players like Obed who has been the top scorer of the Delhi Senior Division in the past two seasons. The squad is young with some experienced players adding depth to it. This year the team will also be taking part in the U-16 and U-18 I-League staring in October.
The club is ambitious and is focusing on building a good youth system. Their past experience will certainly help them and this year they can really perform well. The club management is equally supportive and the coaching staff is highly qualified with all of them having AIFF coaching certification. Under the guidance of Mehra the club is all set to scale new heights.
Editorial by Khel Now correspondent Vinayak Pandey. Vinayak is professional football player from West Delhi. He has played for many clubs in Delhi . You can follow him on Twitter.