A look at past I-league clubs that have become defunct
Some of these teams dominated Indian football during their years in the circuit.
Ever since the Indian Super League was promoted as India’s top division, the once prestigious I-league has been losing its shine. One of the primary effects that the well-funded ISL had on the poorly-managed I-league is that many clubs started to see the end of their days. Some I-League clubs could not sustain themselves financially and shut shop, while some had been in the game for just too long and became defunct.
Here is Khel Now’s compilation of I-League clubs who were once supported dearly by their fans, but now are just a nostalgic memory. Take a look at nine I-League clubs that are defunct today or have shut shop.
This erstwhile I-league club traces back its origins to 2007. They tasted top-division football for the first time in 2009. Youth development was one of the key points of focus for the club. From building an excellent youth academy to playing then Premier League side Blackburn Rovers, Pune FC were truly India’s first professional club. It was no surprise that they made rapid strides and earned a promotion to the I-League in 2009.
After coming third in their maiden I-league season, Pune FC registered their best-ever campaign in 2012-13, when they finished second. Unfortunately, the club were shut down right before the 2015-16 season. Consequently, their academy was acquired by FC Pune City, who have also been disbanded now. Popular names who played for Pune FC include Amrinder Singh, Jessel Carneiro, Anas Edathodika and so on!
This is another club from Pune which has faced a similar situation. The Kalyani Group-owned side invested heavily, but their inaugural season in the I-league was disappointing, to say the least.
After accruing only 18 points from 20 games, continuing for a second season was something that wasn’t financially viable for the owners. Hence, the club, starting from the top of the hierarchy, pulled the plug and closed shop in 2015.
Formerly known as Shivajians, the club were founded in 1987 as a grassroots team hailing from Pune. In 2010, the takeover by the son of DS Kulkarni, Shirish Kulkarni, ushered in a new era in the club’s history. They entered the I-league after a couple of efforts in 2015.
DSK Shivajians finished ninth in their maiden season, but did well to better their position to seventh in the following campaign. However, getting into troubled financial waters and controversies meant that the legacy club had to pull its shutters down in 2017.
Among the I-League clubs to go defunct are Mumbai FC. Before Mumbai City FC took the Indian football stage by storm and represented the state of Maharashtra, there was the revered side of Mumbai FC. After coming into existence in 2007, they earned an I-league berth in the next season, where they finished seventh.
By the time they disbanded in 2019, the club had won two titles (Second Division League in 2007-08 and the Mumbai Elite Division in 2010-11) and provided opportunities to countless youngsters from the city. Players like Rahul Bheke and Jayesh Rane owe their rise to the top to Mumbai FC. Moreover, the current NorthEast United head coach Khalid Jamil also had an impressive stint with the club.
Chirag United Club Kerala
Once based out of Kochi in the state of Kerala, the club were founded in 2004. They plied their trade in the National Football League, the I-league and the Kerala Premier League. Chirag United’s highest point in their history would be finishing runners-up in the Second Division League in 2009.
Nigerian forward Badmus Babatunde was perhaps their most influential player, who still remains in the hearts of loyal fans. The club closed shop in 2012, when Chirag Computers’ endeavour to resuscitate them failed in financial terms.
Jagatjit Cotton & Textile Football Club was founded in 1971 in Punjab. They are one of the most historic clubs in Indian football, who have numerous honours under their belt. JCT FC won the first season of the National Football League (NFL) in 1996-97. Their other trophies include the Federation Cup, Durand Cup, Rovers Cup, IFA Shield and more!
The club were disbanded back in 2011. One moment which will always be etched in the memory of their fans is legend IM Vijayan’s scissor-kick against Malaysian side Perlis FA in their 1-0 win in the Scissors Cup back in 1995.
The 1969-founded club created history after reaching the quarter-finals of the AFC Cup in 2007. Major trophies in their cabinet include the NFL, three Durand Cups, two Federation Cups, two IFA Shields and a Rovers Cup. Some notable alumni of the team before they shut shop in 2010 include Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, Chinglensana Singh and Gouramangi Singh.
Founded in 2004 by Indian football legend Bhaichung Bhutia among others, United Sikkim drew the curtains in 2019, after almost 15 years of existence. The club was the only side from Sikkim to ever play in the I-league. The reasons cited by the club were that they wanted to focus more on grassroots development and that there were “conflict of interest” issues as Bhutia was also part of the state governing body of the sport.
United Sikkim played in the 2012-13 campaign of the I-league, but were relegated. Since then, they have been the dominant force in the state’s premier division, amassing four titles.
The club started their journey in 2007. After many laborious attempts, they were able to make their way into the I-league in 2014-15. Their maiden season was almost like a fairy-tale, as they were able to finish third. They were playing on a temporary, but necessary license provided by the AIFF. The next season, however, they decided to pull out of the league, despite the AIFF providing the needed license to compete.
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