The Big Three of the Maidan are gunning for glory once again…
In January 2020, a few days before the Kolkata Derby, Mohun Bagan confirmed their participation in the Indian Super League (ISL) after merging with ATK.
The Bagan faithful had been waiting with bated breath for the announcement as ensuring a top division berth in the next season was high on the priority list.
The achievements in the sporting arena only compounded their joy. Under Kibu Vicuna, the team not only won the I-League with four matches in hand but played an attractive brand of football throughout the competition after an initial hiccup against Churchill Brothers at home.
The city turned green and maroon on that fateful evening in March and fans from Kalyani to Kolkata took to the streets to celebrate a national major, since their Federation Cup win in 2016.
Until recently, the banter scales were heavily tilted towards the Mariners against their arch-rivals East Bengal as the latter strived for success both on-and-off the pitch.
The Red and Golds had a disappointing I-League campaign and the partnership with their investor Quess Corp did not yield the desired rewards.
Although they were celebrating their centenary year there was a cloud of palpable gloom as their participation in ISL looked extremely uncertain.
It would have been a major disappointment for the fans and embarrassment for the officials if they had to continue to ply their trade in the I-League in their centenary year. Moreover, since their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan had already jumped ship to ISL, a failure to do so would have rubbed more salt to the wound.
In a coup de maître, the officials knocked on the doors of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and with her intervention, Shree Cement Limited came on board as the new investor. Their chances of participation in ISL received a major boost and they are just a few steps away from completing their objective.
The Holy Trinity of the Kolkata Maidan remains incomplete without Mohammedan Sporting and this season they have got a major facelift. The team is set to participate in the I-League qualifiers and the management has kept no stone unturned in order to build a formidable squad as they look to enter the I-League after six years.
They have signed players I-League regulars like Willis Plaza, Eze Kingsley, Subhash Singh and promising midfielder SK Faiaz to name a few and they look one of the strongest teams on paper going into the qualifiers.
There is also talk of Mohammedan attracting investment from abroad.
If the clubs are taking respective steps in the right direction, their local governing body i.e. the Indian Football Association (IFA), is also not far behind. It has inked a four-year deal with “Accord Sports VDK” as its commercial partner and is set to receive Rs 14 crore in four years to conduct competitions like the Calcutta Football League (CFL) and the IFA Shield.
With the major stakeholders in Kolkata Maidan upping their ante in their respective ways, the footballing scene in the ‘City of Joy’ looks set for a joy ride. There has been a sea of changes in the fortunes of Kolkata football in the past few months.