The club finished second in the I-League Qualifiers held in October.
Club Name: Kenkre FC
Year Founded: 2000
Home Ground: Cooperage Ground
Owners: Adib Kenkre and Joshua Lewis
Manager: Akhil Kothari
In the year 2000, Adib Kenkre and Joshua Lewis along with eight other footballers founded this club in Mumbai. After winning the Mumbai Football League in 2010, Kenkre FC got the chance to feature in the Second Division League (the then second tier of Indian football).
Since 2008, the club have been trying to qualify for the I-League. After failing six times, finally this season they have made it to the league, after Chennai City failed to abide by the Club Licensing Regulations.
Kenkre FC is one of the I-League clubs to enjoy the guidance of an Indian at the helm. Akhil Kothari is the head coach of the club and under his guidance the Maharashtrian club finished second in the I-League Qualifiers. He is also India’s youngest AFC A license holder. Young Kothari suffered a serious knee injury and started training children at Kenkre FC when he himself was 18.
Akhil Kothari was previously a part of the Kenkre FC team after he impressed Adib Kenkre in the 2009/10 season when he played in a MSSA (Mumbai Schools Sports Association) clash against Adib Kenkre’s team. Kothari, at a very young age, earned himself an AIFF D license. He initially joined Kenkre FC as the assistant to Floyd Pinto, the then head coach of the U-17 team of Kenkre. After Pinto left for the U-19 national team, Kothari was given charge of the U-17 team.
Eventually, he made it as the assistant coach of the senior team. Currently, at 26, he is the youngest head coach in the I-League.
The Kenkre FC side doesn’t have too many foreigners to rely on but mostly an Indian brigade. The only foreigner in the team is Zacharie Mbenda. The Cameroonian plays as a defender alongside the skipper Al Azhar Delhiwala.
Kenkre have a few exciting names in the form of Pravitto Raju, Ranjeet Singh Pandre and Bishorjit Singh. They also have approximately 10 academy graduates who have made it to the senior team.
Top Three Signings
The 30-year-old Cameroonian has been a part of the club since the I-League Qualifiers. Previously, Mbenda plied his trade mostly in Cameroon, for clubs like Fecafoot, Sahel de Maroua, Cogito FC and more. In 2013, for a short span, he sailed foot in Sri Lanka, to play for Don Bosco SC. The fans can expect some effective defending from the sole overseas player of the club.
The defensive midfielder played six matches for Kenkre FC in the I-League Qualifiers. He even turned out to score the winner against Madan Maharaj FC. Prior to Kenkre FC, he plied his trade in Chennai City FC, where he played 32 matches for the club in three consecutive seasons. He even scored two goals in the I-League for the Chennai-based club. He will be securing the defensive flaws of Kenkre FC and standing strong in front of their backline.
The 29-year-old goalkeeper has previously played for clubs like Real Kashmir and Chennai City. However, he hardly got a chance to prove his worth as he was mostly kept on the bench. In Kenkre FC, Samdup has turned out to be their main man under the bar. He has made six appearances in the I-League qualifiers and conceded just three goals and kept three clean-sheets! Surely, he’ll be the one guarding the Kenkre FC fortress in the I-League.
Goalkeepers: Tenzim Samdup, Bishorjit Singh, Aayush Shah.
Defenders: Al Azhar Delhiwala, Zacharie Mbenda, Umair Momin, Suraj Negi, Faiz Khan, Nitesh Aswani.
Midfielders: Pravitto Raju, Kiran Pandhare, Ashrafali Makandar, Afzar Noorani, Siddhart Colaco, Shaun Fernandes, Aman Gaikwad, Aniket Panchal, Rinaldo Fernandes, Rohan Shukla, Aravinraj Rajan.
Forwards: Varun Mathur, Ranjeet Singh Pandre, Yogesh Kadam, Silvester Sarao, Yash Mhatre, Dipu Mirdha, Arya Gandharva.
The club was named after Adib Kenkre, who founded the outfit (previously Kenkre Academy FC) along with nine footballers, including Joshua Lewis. Lewis is currently the CEO of the club and looking after it just like a parent does of a child.
Style of Play
With regards to the standards of the different I-League teams, Kenkre FC may implement various styles, depending upon the opponent.
Heading back a few days, in their win against Madan Maharaj FC in the I-League Qualifiers, Kenkre FC deployed much of a build-from-the-back policy. But, against teams like Gokulam Kerala and Roundglass Punjab, they may rely on a different strategy.
The I-League is a different ball game, hence Akhil Kothari will have to keep many details in mind in order to fetch three valuable points in their encounters.
Kenkre FC use the Cooperage Ground as their home ground. The Cooperage has been a traditional venue, as previously during the I-League days we have seen teams like Mumbai FC and Mahindra United use this stadium as their home ground. The stadium has a capacity of 5,000.
However, this time the I-League is being played in stadiums across West Bengal, namely the Mohun Bagan Ground in the Kolkata maidan area, Kalyani Municipal Stadium and the Naihati Stadium.
The club were initially founded as Kenkre Academy FC. The focus is on nurturing local talents and glimpses of them are prevalent in the senior team as well.
Yash Mhatre, who plays as a forward for Kenkre FC is an academy product, apart from around nine other players who have emerged from the ranks. Apparently, Kenkre FC have eight academies in Mumbai with around 1000 kids receiving the tutelage of the faculties.
Road to I-League
The road to the I-League was tough for Kenkre as they failed qualification six times since 2008. In 2010, however, after winning the Mumbai Football League, the club got their place in the Second Division League which was the then second tier of Indian football.
Kenkre made a second-place finish to Rajasthan United in the I-League Qualifiers held a few months back,. In early December, after Chennai City failed in the club licensing regulations and were unable from participation, Kenkre FC got their much-awaited chance of featuring in the I-League.
Behind The Scenes
Kenkre FC are the torch-bearers of Mumbai (to be more precise Maharashtra) in the I-League. The club’s success in this competition will be of immense importance, as other clubs from the state will look for inspiration from Akhil Kothari’s side.
Overall, Kenkre FC’s success will be expected to introduce more talents from Mumbai and the state to the footballing vertical of India.
How will they fare?
The club have just one foreign player in their ranks and most of the squad comprises local blood. Kenkre FC will undoubtedly have a tough time in the I-League, where most of the difference is created by the foreigners. However, if this bold approach yields results, Kenkre will be in the history books for sure. A top six finish will be praiseworthy for Akhil Kothari’s men.
Kenkre FC will face Real Kashmir in their first match on the 31st of December. The match will be played at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium from 4:30pm.