Soumo Ghosh
AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: The Mecca of Indian Football, Kolkata, has three pillars, which have played a massive role in popularising the beautiful game in Bengal, and also to a large extent in India. While two of these pillars, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal, are currently in the top division, Indian Super League, the third pillar, Mohammedan Sporting are in resurgent form.

The Black and White Brigade, who famously won five back-to-back Calcutta Football League titles from 1934 to 1938, are currently gunning for their third CFL title in a row, after winning it in 2021 and 2022. While they have shown some remarkable form at the state level, Mohammedan Sporting have also been one of the front-runners in the I-League, where they have been vying for promotion to the Indian Super League.

While this period of on-pitch success and stability gives reassurance to the ardent fan base of the club, Mohammedan Sporting have also been using this period to upscale their activities around the pitch. The famous Mohammedan Sporting Ground at the Kolkata Maidan has seen some recent refurbishments, as the club makes its efforts to transform it into an arena fit for modern football fans.

Club General Secretary Mr Ishtiyaq Ahmed said, “It is fabulous how we have turned around, our ground is one of the best today. Our tent, which has such a glorious heritage, looks more prestigious than ever.

“Facilities are important of course, and we can see that the players really appreciate the efforts being made by the club. I would like to thank our partners for that. Ever since we unified as one management, we have been able to provide our players with top-class facilities,” he said. “I think our results in the last couple of years have also reflected that. Amongst the legacy clubs, Mohammedan Sporting’s tent is the best in the country today.”

The Black and White Brigade, under the new unified management, along with co-owners Bunkerhill, are harbouring dreams of making it to the ISL and thriving in the top division.

Bunkerhill Director Mr Dipak Kumar Singh said, “Mohammedan Sporting have given a lot to Indian Football. Pre-independence, we were one of the strongest clubs and dominated the Indian Football ecosystem. That glory faded away to an extent for various reasons, but we are on the route of making a return in recent years.

“Money is an important part of this, but we also need to make sure that the system is sustainable. The idea is to bring Mohammedan back to the top level of Indian Football. I can say very clearly that there will be a day when the VYBK (Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan) will be full of black and white in the ISL, and no seats will be available. That’s the dream,” said Mr Singh.

While the infrastructure of Mohammedan Sporting is being refurbished, the club is also looking to constantly engage with fans in order to make the most of their resurgence in Indian Football.

‘Happy to promote local talents’

In one of its recent rule changes, the All India Football Federation has made the state leagues an all-Indian affair, as clubs will only be able to field players who hold Indian passports. This has produced an upsurge in the number of Indian players who have come to the fore in this season’s CFL. Indeed, Mohammedan’s David Lalhlansanga (six goals) and Beneston Barretto (five goals) are fighting it out for the top scorer award, being placed second and joint-third, respectively, on the list.

Mohammedan Sporting Football Secretary Mr Dipendu Biswas extensively thanked the AIFF for introducing this rule and feels that it will go a long way in helping India promote more players in crucial areas of the pitch.

“I would like to thank the AIFF and President Kalyan Chaubey for introducing this rule. This has also made it an even fight between the clubs in the state leagues. Previously, big clubs like East Bengal, Mohammedan, and Mohun Bagan would sign the top foreigners and be far ahead of everyone else. Now, with only Indian players, things are more even,” he said. “If we can keep this up for a few years, I am sure we will find good players in key positions like centre forward, central midfield, and centre back.

“Our club is also benefiting from this as we are getting the opportunity to field more Indian youngsters, and the likes of David and Barretto, who nobody knew about, had heard of before, are now performing so well,” said Biswas.

The club management is also working towards furthering its footprint at the grassroots level, having opened an academy in Gurugram, and also making improvements to its existing academy in Kolkata.