Since the inception of the Indian Super League (ISL) in 2014, there have been three ISL winners who have claimed the coveted title at least once.
In the previous six editions, erstwhile ATK have been the most dominant team, having secured the title three times. Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC are the other two sides, which complete the ISL winners list.
The entry of Kolkata giants East Bengal is also expected to boost the image and glamour of India's top division football league this time around.
The much-awaited ISL 2020-21 season kicks off in Goa from November 20 amidst the pandemic. So as we approach the news season, let’s have a look at previous ISL winners:
2014 ISL winner — Atletico de Kolkata
In the inaugural season, ATK, formerly known as Atlético de Kolkata, were crowned the ISL season 1 winner as they defeated Kerala Blasters 1-0 in the final, courtesy an injury-time goal by Indian midfielder Mohammed Rafique.
Under head coach Antonio Lopez Habas and marquee player Luis Garcia, ATK had finished third in the ISL table at the end of the league stages, four points behind table-toppers Chennaiyin FC.
The 2014 season featured eight teams, each playing 14 matches during the regular season.
2015 ISL winner — Chennaiyin FC
After suffering heartbreak in the 2014 ISL semi-finals, Chennaiyin FC defeated FC Goa 3-2 in a mouth-watering 2015 ISL final at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa.
Chennaiyin FC had claimed the title with the help from their talisman Stiven Mendoza, who won the 'Hero of the League' award as well as the ISL Golden Boot, having scored 13 goals that season.
Interestingly, during the early stage of 2015 ISL season, Chennaiyin were placed last in the league table. The ‘Marina Machans’ then won four consecutive games to qualify for the play-offs, finishing third in the point table.
2016 ISL winner — Atletico de Kolkata
In the 2016 edition of the Indian Super League, ATK secured the title for the second time after defeating Kerala Blasters in a nail-biting penalty shootout at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, Kerala.
With more than 80,000 fans in the stadium, Blasters took the lead in the 37th minute through Mohammed Rafi. However, just after seven minutes, Henrique Sereno equalised for ATK. With the score still at 1–1 after extra-time, the match eventually went into a penalty shootout.
ATK won the shoot-out 4–3 and became two-time champions courtesy some brilliant saves from their keeper Debjit Majumder.
2017-18 ISL winner — Chennaiyin FC
This was the year when All India Football Federation handed ISL the top-tier tag from Asian Football Confederation (AFC), replacing I-League.
ISL expanded with the inclusion of Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC, with a play-off slot to play for in the AFC Cup.
Under head coach John Gregory, Chennaiyin FC defeated Bengaluru FC 3-2 to claim their second ISL title at Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.
Earlier in the league stages, Bengaluru FC had accumulated 40 points from their 18 games to finish eight points clear of Chennaiyin, who had finished second in the points table. Goa and Pune City were the other two teams who qualified for the 2017-18 ISL play-offs.
2018-19 ISL winner — Bengaluru FC
In the 2018-19 edition of the tournament, Sunil Chhetri-led Bengaluru FC were hot favourites to be crowned the ISL season 5 winner.
As it turned out, Bengaluru FC secured their maiden title by defeating FC Goa 1–0 in the final at Mumbai Football Arena. Bengaluru FC’s Rahul Bheke scored the winner from a corner in the 117th minute.
As in the earlier edition of the tournament, Bengaluru had topped the ISL league stages in 2018-19 season.
In the semi-finals, while Bengaluru defeated NorthEast United 4-2 in two legs, Goa thrashed Mumbai City 5-2.
2019-20 ISL winner — ATK
Having experienced two disappointing seasons, ATK re-appointed Antonio Lopez Habas as their head coach for the 2019-20 ISL season.
The decision turned out to be successful as ATK became the first club to win the ISL thrice after they defeated Chennaiyin FC 3-1 in the 2019-20 ISL final.
In the finals, ATK goal-keeper Arindam Bhattacharya showed his class to help the white and red brigade clinch the coveted title.
For the champions, Roy Krishna and David Williams were the stand-out performers throughout the tournament.
2020-21 ISL winner — Mumbai City FC
Ahead of the seventh edition of the Indian Super League, FC Goa’s former head coach Sergio Lobera was handed the reins of Mumbai City FC to change the fortunes of the club. As it turned out, it was a masterstroke as Mumbai City FC won their maiden ISL title by defeating ATK Mohun Bagan 2-1 at the Fatorda Stadium.
The Islanders are only the second team, after Bengaluru FC in 2018-19, to finish on top of the league and win the final in the same season. Mumbai, thus, completed a rare double of winning the ISL title after clinching the League Winners Shield and securing a place in the 2022 AFC Champions League.
Feature image courtesy: 2021 Indian Super League