It’s been an action-packed road so far for one of India’s most prestigious regional leagues.
The city of Calcutta saw the onset of the football season when the Calcutta Football League kick-started earlier this month, with the teams gathering the best available players to challenge defending champions East Bengal for the title. The football hub of India has been home to this prestigious regional league for over a century now, with this being its 119th season earlier and is a grand stage for the likes of Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and the other Kolkata based clubs to assert their dominance ahead of the national leagues.
Defending champions EB, who have won the competition for the past seven seasons and have been boosted by the arrival of new coach Khalid Jamil kick-started the season with a dominating 4-2 victory against Rainbow SC at East Bengal Ground, with newcomer VP Suhair scoring a hat-trick on his debut. Meanwhile. their biggest rivals Mohun Bagan also started off with a flyer at the Mohun Bagan Ground with a 3-0 victory against Southern Samity with new striker Ansumana Kromah scoring on his debut for the Mariners.
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The first real shock of the tournament came when Mohammedan Sporting lost to Pathacharka SC 2-4, dealing an early blow to Mohammedan who looked really impressive coming into the tournament because of their summer activity. But, they made a statement in their second match, thrashing Tollygunge Agragami 5-1 where their new signings really shone through. East Bengal kept up their good run with a 2-0 victory against Calcutta Customs thanks to a brace from new defender Carlyle Mitchell, while Bagan made another dominant showcase in their 3-0 win against Railway FC where their other big signing Kamo Stephane Bayi gave a brilliant performance with a goal and an assist.
It seems to be a case of the Mariners and the Red and Gold Brigaders trying to outdo each other in every single match as East Bengal came up with a stunning performance after Bagan’s 3-0 win by defeating Peerless FC 5-1 where promising midfielder Subrabuddin Mollick scored his maiden CFL hat-trick to delight the fans. But, Sanjoy Sen’s men had their own destructive response to that as they plowed through Pathacharka FC by beating them 5-2, where Kamo scored 4 goals to send the supporters to 7th heaven!
Meanwhile, Mohammedan Sporting kept up their impressive form by thrashing Southern Samity 3-0 where Sheikh Faiaz continued to impress for the club by scoring a sublime brace. Mohammedan’s star signing and last season’s I-League Golden Boot winner Aser Dipanda finally showed up for his new club against Peerless SC, where his stunning second half hat-trick helped Sporting get a dominating 5-2 win against their stern oppositions.
Mohun Bagan had a bit shaky game against Calcutta Customs, but ended up on the winning side thanks to goals from new stars Kamo Bayi and Kromah which helped them maintain their perfect form in the CFL so far. East Bengal continued their undefeated run with yet another 3-0 victory, this time against Railway FC as a brace from the impressive VP Suhair helped them retain their top spot in the league.
While Bagan, East Bengal, and Mohammedan have had extremely impressive starts to the tournament and have established themselves as favorites for the top spots, some of the other “strong” teams like Calcutta Customs or Southern Samity haven’t really lived up to the mark. The latter had signed many widely known stars like Odafa, Deepak Mondal and Ashim Biswas to boost their squad but are yet to win a match in the CFL so far. These teams will have to improve in the next month or so in order to attain a respectable position in the league and prove that the CFL isn’t only about the domination of the “elite” clubs.