AIFF Media Team
NEW DELHI: Dempo Sports Club are back in the I-League. Nine years following their relegation from the I-League, the Golden Eagles sealed their return after a 3-1 comeback win over Sudeva Delhi FC on the final matchday of the 2023-24 I-League 2 at their very own Ella Ground on Saturday, April 27, 2024.

The five-time NFL/I-League champions found themselves trailing mid-way through the first half as Ramesh Chhetri headed in to put Sudeva Delhi ahead. However, Dempo, needing just a point for promotion, came out all guns blazing in the second half and put the result beyond doubt with three goals in 21 minutes. Substitute Laximanrao Rane equalised just two minutes into the second half before Rahul Kumar Paswan’s penalty turned it around in the 58th minute. Finally, Shubham Rawat slammed home a powerful right-footed strike in the 68th minute to wrap up all three points, marking Dempo’s much-awaited return to the I-League.

Dempo, thus, finished the season in second place with 27 points, four ahead of Sudeva Delhi, who would’ve secured an immediate promotion back to the I-League had they won. Earlier this month, Sporting Club Bengaluru were crowned I-League 2 champions and were promoted to the I-League for the first time. They beat city rivals FC Bengaluru United 1-0 on the final day to finish with 33 points, sensationally winning 11 of their 14 games.

At the opposite end of the table, the relegation of both Mumbai-based sides, Mumbai Kenkre FC and Maharashtra Oranje FC was confirmed on Saturday.  Both sides met at COE Kharghar, with Maharashtra Oranje running out 1-0 winners, but the three points weren’t enough to save themselves as United SC bagged a 2-1 win over Sporting Clube de Goa in Vasco da Gama. The Kolkata side finished on 15 points, the same as Maharashtra Oranje, but pipped them based on a better head-to-head record to maintain their I-League 2 status for another season. Mumbai Kenkre, who were relegated from the I-League last season, ended bottom of the eight-team standings with just nine points in 14 games and suffered their second successive relegation.

Dempo SC have won the National Football League in 2004-05 and 2006-07 and the I-League in 2007-08, 2009-10 and 2011-12. The Golden Eagles have also won the Federation Cup in 2004, the Indian Super Cup in 2008 and 2010 and the Durand Cup in 2006. Dempo have represented India in the AFC Cup on five occasions (2005, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011), remarkably reaching the semi-finals in 2008.