The past 12 months have been extremely eventful when it comes to Indian football, more particularly the Indian Super League. From a first-ever title triumph for Sunil Chhetri’s Bengaluru FC to a few big names signings, here is a look back at some of the major highlights from India’s premier competition that took place in 2019.
Maiden title for Bengaluru FC
Having made their ISL debut only in 2017, Bengaluru FC have made quite an impression on the Indian domestic circuit. They narrowly missed out on claiming the title in their debut season, losing a closely contested final 2-3 to Chennaiyin FC. It was looking like deja-vu for Sunil Chhetri’s side last season as well, as their final against FC Goa was meandering towards a goalless draw after extra time, until a looping, late header from defender Rahul Bheke sealed the first-ever title for the club at a packed Mumbai football arena.
Antonio Habas was the talk of the town in the first season of the Indian Super League, as he spearheaded ATK to the title. His 3-4-3 system revolutionised Indian football, with his quick counter-attacking and compact defense lighting up Kolkata. After helping them to the title in the first season, Habas left ATK after the first season, and they have struggled ever since to live up to those lofty standards.
The 62-year-old Spaniard, however, rejoined the club in May 2019, and there has been a spring in the step of ATK ever since. They have won all but one of their home games thus far in the league and seem destined to once again make the semifinals.
Gyan joins NorthEast United
He lit up the 2010 FIFA World Cup, guiding his country Ghana to the quarterfinals of the competition. He then excelled in the English Premier League with Sunderland, scoring away against Tottenham and Chelsea. Following that, he enjoyed successful stints at Rennes and Al Ain, and now striker Asamoah Gyan is lighting up the Indian Super League.
The Ghanian forward signed for NorthEast United in September and has four goals to his name as of the New Year with his team still strongly in the hunt to make it to the semifinals.
City Football Group takeover
A landmark moment for the Indian Super League and Indian football in general came last November when the City Football Group acquired a majority stake in Mumbai City FC. Since that takeover, Mumbai City FC have been on a five-match unbeaten run which includes three wins. Now with the winter transfer window in place, one can expect a few more high profile signings to grace Jorge Costa’s side.
FC Goa’s century of goals
Ever since Spanish coach Sergio Lobera took charge of FC Goa in 2017, they have been a delight to watch for most Indian fans. FC Goa’s free flowing, expansive style of football is the reason that almost all their home matches are packed to the rafters. They have been scoring goals for fun last season when they got to the finals, and have continued that attacking flair this campaign, getting to a century of goals under the Spanish gaffer this December.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @NEUtdFC