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The ATK-Mohun Bagan merger: How it changes the course of Indian football

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Indian Super League club ATK FC have publicly announced its merger with the I-League club Mohun Bagan, with the new entity to be called ATK Mohun Bagan Football Club. The merger between the two clubs was announced on social media, with the clubs releasing the new logo prior to the upcoming ISL 2020-21 season. 

ATK FC are the most successful club in the ISL history, winning the trophy thrice in six seasons, and twice under their current head coach Antonio Lopez Habas. The Spaniard built his team around the direct attacking approach, which yielded fruit as the side were the second most attacking team in the division. They also had the second-best defence in the ISL, and Habas was instrumental in bringing home the trophy to the football-crazy city of Kolkata.

The merger was announced midway through the season, with ATK’s parent company, RP-SG buying out 80% stakes of Mohun Bagan. This was a sign of the things to come, with the I-League and the ISL having been at loggerheads with each other since the inception of the ISL. However, the merger of these two clubs is a new beginning for Indian football, with fans of the beautiful game soon to see a new phenomenon gripping through the league.

Over the next five to six years, the ISL is going to integrate into the Asian football strata as the highest football league in India, with the I-League said to become India’s second division. The pride of Kolkata, i.e. Mohun Bagan, was the first team to take advantage of this, having entered into a merger with ATK FC. 

Mohun Bagan have a rich footballing history, and the club has been in action since 1889. They were the first Indian club to beat an English team after triumphing over East Yorkshire Regiment to win the IFA Shield in 1911. In addition to this, they have won the Durand Cup 16 times, the Federation Cup 14 times and the I-League five times. In fact, the last I-League season that the club played before the merger was wrapped up by the AIFF, with Mohun Bagan winning the league. They were the best team in term of defence and even while attacking. 

With the history of Mohun Bagan and the infrastructure of ATK, this merged entity might just be the beginning of something new in Indian football history. With the ISL having stepped up with performances over the last few seasons, the tournament has seen the progress of football improve slowly but surely. ATK’s Sumit Rathi, a part of the club’s youth ranks, won the Emerging Player of the League award, while former Mohun Bagan head coach has joined Kerala Blasters for the upcoming season. 

Mohun Bagan, which has a history of producing stars like Sunil Chhetri and Pritam Kotal, will be looking to take full advantage of ATK’s bright youth setup, as well as FSDL’s budding Children’s League setup. In fact, Mohun Bagan are not the only club looking to merge into the ISL. The likes of Chennai City FC are looking to merge with two-time ISL champions and 2019-20 finalists Chennaiyin FC.

Chennai City were league champions during the 2018-19 season but were resigned to losing many of their star players like Edwin Vanspaul and Nestor Gordillo. With the merger of ATK and Mohun Bagan proving to be a perfect merge of development and historical prestige, as well as the lure of Asian Champions League, the Indian Super League might look to become a telling force in Asian football.  

Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @ATKFC

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