The calendar year brought forward some path breaking events for the stakeholders in the country.
Indian football had an eventful year in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. There were many moments to rejoice and some iconic decisions were taken that attracted everyone’s attention.
From two legendary clubs making the transition from I-League to Indian Super League, a major merger between champions of both divisions and more.
There were plenty of major developments in Indian football in the past year and Khel Now has compiled a list of the top five most significant moments:
5. Bala Devi signs for Rangers
Bala Devi is a remarkable footballer for many reasons. Apart from being the skipper of the national women’s team, she became the first Indian female footballer to sign a professional contract at a top flight European club. She signed for Rangers FC in the Scottish Women’s Premier League in January of 2020.
Moreover, the 30-year-old made further history when she scored for Rangers in a 9-0 win over Motherwell. It goes without saying that Bala Devi is an inspiration to countless female athletes, especially in India.
4. Merger of ATK and Mohun Bagan
One of the biggest headlines in Indian football this year came early in January, when it was decided that Indian Super League champions ATK and I-League champions Mohun Bagan would merge to form a new entity called, ATK Mohun Bagan.
This enabled Mohun Bagan – one of India’s most prestigious and oldest clubs to enter the ISL from the 2020-21 season onward. While the two clubs merged, much of Bagan’s heritage was left unchanged, as the new entity adopted their iconic green and maroon colours, along with the crest. Furthermore, the new entity will also get to play the AFC Cup.
3. East Bengal’s transition into the ISL
While Mohun Bagan were able to gain entry into the ISL through the merger with ATK, East Bengal’s route to the competition was different.
Founder & Chairperson of Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) Nita Ambani, announced SC East Bengal’s inclusion into the Indian Super League 2020-21 after the outfit found new sponsors in Shree Cement. The new regime, through a bidding process, completed the formalities in late September, enabling the Red & Gold Brigade to compete in the ISL. Thus, both Kolkata giants became part of the ISL in 2020.
2. India’s bid to host AFC Asian Cup 2027
On 16 December, it was announced by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) that they have successfully launched a bid to host the AFC Asian Cup 2027. This news was welcomed by all stakeholders of the sport in the country with a lot of excitement.
India has recently shown the ability to host prestigious international tournaments like the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup and will be hosting the U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2022, followed by the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup. India will contest with countries like Qatar, Iran and Saudi Arabia for the hosting rights of the biggest stage in Asian football.
1. FC Goa’s direct AFC Champions League qualification
The Gaurs made history earlier in 2020 when they became the first-ever Indian club to gain direct entry into the group stage of the AFC Champions League. The outfit achieved this feat after finishing the league phase of the ISL on top of the standings, with 39 points in 18 matches.
Despite the Gaurs losing out on the title, they gained something much grander. After India was granted a direct spot in the ACL, thanks to AFC’s member association ranking system, the Indian football roadmap assigned the direct spot to the table-toppers in the ISL.