Football is not just any sport; it is an emotion if you are in the streets of Bengal. One of the most fascinating things about the most beautiful game is that during the time of a World Cup, the whole city of Kolkata dazzles with the flags of Brazil, Argentina, Germany and others in almost every nook and corner with their star players images as murals on walls. India might have a distant relationship with the sport on an international level compared to cricket, but the eastern region of the country has football running in the veins of every child on a rainy afternoon. Unlike cricket, the overwhelming experience of a football match comes out when it drizzles. In Kolkata, playing football in the rain is a marked off activity on everyone’s bucket list because that is the passion for the sport in the city. India’s first football national club, Mohun Bagan, also originated from the heart of the city Kolkata in 1889 on August 15th during the British Raj.
When Indian Super League started in 2014, football frenzies knew that their prayers have been answered and now they could support their favourite team from their native city as well. So far it had been teams from English Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and a few farmers’ league as well, who got the undivided support of their Indian fans. However, since 2014 the commercialized version of football in India is also earning popularity. Atletico de Kolkata now known as ATK for sponsorship purposes came into existence on May 7, 2014 as the first team in the Indian Super League. Owned by Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt. Ltd, ATK in the initial three years were also owned by Spanish top flight football giant from Madrid, Atletico Madrid. The team’s name and kit were derived from the Spanish club. After the partnership ended Atletico de Kolkata became ATK.
Indian Super League History:
2014 – 2015
Since its foundation in 2014, Atletico de Kolkata not only hosted the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League but also won the first ever ISL Trophy. Owing to their signings of three world class defenders from Spain, ATK aimed to replicate a team that would display Spanish football from the core of their heart. They even got former UEFA Champions League winner Luis Garcia as their marquee player of the season. Picking up talents from other domestic leagues, ATK formed a powerful team and in their opening game in the first ever edition of Indian Super League they beat Mumbai City FC 3-0. They went on conquering match day by match day when they faced off FC Goa in the semis after a goalless draw and went on to the final by winning the game on penalties. In the final, they met with Kerala Blasters FC, Sachin Tendulkar owned, in Mumbai. The whole nation enjoyed when they saw Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly to open the innings for India in cricket and then witnessed the rivalry of the football clubs owned by two personalities in the ISL Final. ATK went on winning the game clinically by a score of 2-0.
2015 – 2016
The second season saw the arrival of Iain Hume from Canada to enhance the attacking segment of the team, who in the first edition served his loyalty for Kerala Blasters with five goals scored. They also brought along goalie Amrinder Singh from Pune City FC and brought along Portugal star Helder Postiga as a replacement to the injury prone Luis Garcia. Helder Postiga had a perfect start to his Indian Football chapter with two goals and an injury that would make him a long term absentee for the ATK. With unimpressive performances at times ATK could only reach the play-offs and lost to Chennaiyin FC on an aggregate by 4-2.
2016 – 2017
The third season promised to be different as ATK brought along another Spaniard to their squad but this time as a manager. Jose Francisco Molina, former coach of Villarreal CF of the Spanish top flight football. Helder Postiga was also back in training hoping to continue on his great start from the previous season but only after a few games he picked up another injury that would make him sidelined for the rest of the season. ATK went on the play offs and met Mumbai City FC in the semis. After qualifying on aggregate, the final against Kerala Blasters FC had the hearts out of the ATK fans. A 1-1 draw saw both ATK and Kerala Blasters going to the penalties and two terrible misses from Eihadji Ndoye and Cedric Hengbart of from the Kerala side cost them the title. ATK won the ISL title for the second time and became the first ever club to do so in the very brief history of Indian Super League.
Last Indian Super League performance
2017 – 2018
With Atletico Madrid leaving the ownership behind, ATK had a change of squad and most of the players were not retained from the last campaign. Having enough of Spanish roots on the team, ATK went after English football style as they hired Teddy Sheringham, former England striker as the head coach. They even signed Robbie Keane from Ireland as their marquee player of the season. The new tactics failed as ATK for the first time in four years could not get into the play offs. However, they were saved from further humiliation from ending on the last position on the points table by beating North East United FC in their last game of the season.
ATK would be aiming to start fresh from this season and leave behind the nightmares of the previous season as they appointed former Mohun Bagan AC head coach, Sanjoy Sen as their mentor to recruit national players. Former Manchester United FC striker Steve Coppell has been hired as the head coach for this time. Coppell had previous ISL experiences with Kerala Blasters FC and Jamshedpur FC.
Goalkeepers: Avilash Paul, Debjit Majumder, Arindam Bhattacharya
Defenders: Airbolang Khongjee, Gerson Vierira, John Johnson, Arnab Mondal, Ricky Lallawmawma, Sena Ralte, Andre Bikey, Prabir Das
Midfielders: Noussair El Maimouni, Cavin Lobo, Komal Thatal, Manuel Lanzarote (C), Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Pronay Halder, , Hitesh Sharma, Yumnam Singh, Malsawmzuala, Sheikh Faiaz
Forwards: Balwant Singh, Jayesh Rane, Everton Santos, Kalu Uche
(As of August 2018)
ATK has no definite formation but they prefer to go with a 4-2-3-1 formation because the two defensive midfielders not only back them up in defence but also enhance the attack from the centre.
Soram Porei (GK); Ashutosh Mehta, Anwar Ali, Jordi Montel, Keegan Pereira; Shankar Sampingraj, Conor Thomas, Sibongakonke Mbatha, Zequinha; Jayesh Rane, Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane would always be a key forward for ATK in this season as well after being the lead goal scorer from the team in the last edition. He scored 6 goals in 9 matches.
Debjit Majumder would be crucial in the goal for ATK in this season as he kept 4 clean sheets in 12 matches, making 33 saves in total.
Head coach Steve Coppell has a variety of options in his hand as he starts out his venture with Atletico de Kolkata in this season. They have plenty of players competing for a position in the starting lineup. The likes of Prabir Das are menacing for the opponents but at the moment he is nursing his fitness issues. The team has a very strong attack with players like Manuel Lanzarote, Kalu Uche, Everton Santos, Balwant Singh and others.
This should not be really considered a weakness, if the team enjoys counter attacking football but often they leave their goal guard less while they march on to conquer others.
Coach: Steve Coppell
Stadium: Yuva Bharati Kirangan, Salt lake
If ATK can win this edition of the Indian Super League then they will be the first team to do so in the history of ISL.