Some of these teams could have influenced Indian football even today, had they continued to exist.
Indian football is a bigger world than it gets credit for. The country is home to one of the oldest football clubs in the world. It also hosts the world’s third and fourth oldest competitions, the Durand Cup and the IFA Shield respectively. The first Indian football club was Calcutta FC, established in 1872. Since then, we have seen the birth and rise of hundreds of football teams all over the nation.
It took over 100 years since, for India to have a football league system. The All India Football Federation (AIFF) created the National Football League (NFL) in 1996 and that gave Indian clubs the first consistent platform. However, just ten years later, the NFL folded, leading to the birth of the I-League. On December 9, 2010, it was announced that the AIFF had signed a new 15-year, 700–crore deal with Reliance Industries and the International Management Group. The blockbuster Indian Super League (ISL) was formed three years later. Now, it has the tag of the premier football competition in India.
However, apart from the highs, Indian football has had its lows too, especially in the world of club football. Over the years, the country has witnessed the untimely demise of many legendary football clubs. Had they continued to exist, some of them could have influenced Indian football greatly even today.
That said, today Khel Now takes a look at five Indian football clubs which fans wish were still in existence. Read on!
5. Mumbai FC
Some new-age football fans from India may think that Mumbai City FC are the first high-profile club to come from the capital of Maharashtra. However, the fact remains that other clubs like Mumbai FC represented the city long before MCFC even came into existence.
The club was founded in 2007, with the novel objective of providing a platform for the young aspiring footballers from the city. The very next year, they earned promotion to the I-League and finished seventh in their maiden league season. By the time they became defunct in 2019, they had won two trophies. These were the I-league Second Division in 2007-08 and the Mumbai Elite Division League in 2010-11. They also gifted several stars to Indian football including Ashutosh Mehta, Rahul Bheke and Jayesh Rane. Meanwhile, coaches like Khalid Jamil and Santhosh Kashyap also had stints with them.
4. Pune FC
The next club on this list is Pune FC, who shared a fierce rivalry with Mumbai FC mentioned above. Founded in 2007, Pune FC got promoted to the I-League in 2009 and were once regarded as one of the most professional football clubs in the country. They had a focus on a professional playing setup and youth development in particular.
In their very first season in the I-League, the club managed to finish third. They enjoyed their best ever campaign during the 2012–13 season, in which they became runners-up. Ahead of the 2015-16 season, the club were forced to shutdown. Meanwhile, their academy was purchased by the erstwhile ISL side FC Pune City.
Subrata Paul, Amrinder Singh, Anas Edathodika, Dhanpal Ganesh, Jessel Carneiro and Denechandra Meitei were all part of the FC Pune side at different points of time.
3. Chirag United Club Kerala
Chirag United Club Kerala, formerly known as Viva Kerala, were based in the city of Kochi in Kerala. Originally formed in 2004 as Viva Kerala, they played in the NFL and later the I-League as well as Kerala Premier League. The club was dissolved in 2012, after Chirag Computers’ attempt to resurrect them financially failed.
The team finished as the I-League Second Division runners-up in 2009 and were one of the best high-profile teams from Kerala at that time. Their exploits were mostly led by Nigerian striker Baba Thunde, whose name remains etched in the minds of football fans from the state even today.
Jagatjit Cotton & Textile Football Club, often abbreviated as JCT FC, was founded in 1971 and was based in Hoshiarpur, Punjab. The team featured regularly in the NFL, I-league and Punjab State Super League before getting disbanded in 2011. They also have a big winning history and are one of the Indian football clubs with the most trophies to- date.
JCT won the first-ever NFL season in 1996-97 and have also lifted the Federation Cup, Durand Cup, IFA Shield, Rovers Cup, Sait Nagjee Football Tournament, among other national-level tournaments multiple times. Their most recent win happened in 2011, when their academy side won the U-19 I-league.
A win that remains unforgotten among fans would be the 1-0 victory against Malaysian club Perlis FC in the 1995 Scissors Cup. JCT lifted the trophy thanks to a brilliant scissor-kick goal from the legendary IM Vijayan.
1. Mahindra United FC
Popularly known as India’s MUFC after Manchester United, Mahindra United were one of the popular Indian football clubs. They were founded in 1969 as the Mahindra & Mahindra Allied Sports Club under the patronage of the Mahindra Group of Companies. The club played in the NFL and I-league apart from multiple cup competitions – most of which they won at least once.
The outfit created history by reaching the quarterfinals of the AFC Cup in 2007, apart from lifting the NFL and Durand Cup thrice each, Federation Cup and IFA Shield twice each and the Rovers Cup once. Karan Amin, Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, Steven Diaz, Mahesh Gawli, Arata Izumi, Naushad Moosa, Dharmaraj Ravanan, Chinglensana Singh, Gouramangi Singh and so on have played for them over the years.