Atlético de Kolkata rides high on European contribution to clinch ISL 2016

Indian football finally coming of age with a global influence

Freestyle

News - India & You

December 20, 2016

/ By / Kolkata



Atletico de Kolkata players and management team celebrate with the ISL trophy in 2014. Picture:PTI

Atletico de Kolkata players and management team celebrate with the ISL trophy in 2014. Picture:PTI

Atlético de Kolkata wins the Indian Super League a second time in three years. Football, in cricket-crazy India, is gradually gaining in popularity and rediscovering the hysteria of the days gone by.

India is yet to mark its presence in international football, but the country hosted the third edition of the annual Indian Super League (ISL) with heavy fanfare and participation. The finals for the league, held in Kochi, a city in southern Indian state of Kerala, saw Atlético de Kolkata snatching the title from under the home team’s nose. With more and more foreign players and coaches with impressive resumes participate in the tournament, the ISL has successfully been able to imbibe an international flavour in a country where the popularity and professionalism of the sport has greatly waned over the years.

The league, which describes itself as being committed to investing in stadium refurbishment in the eight identified venues and also to a strong grassroots development programme to create a platform to groom football talent in the country, was followed widely throughout the country and beyond. Atlético de Kolkata (ATK), who had won the first season of the league as well, came up against their vanquished foes from the memorable evening in 2014, Kerala Blasters FC (KBFC), which was coached by the former Manchester United winger Steve Coppell. The contenders in the finale, both Kerala Blasters FC and ATK were among eight participating teams which included a representation from across the country with Delhi Dynamos, Chennaiyin FC, FC Goa, FC Pune City, Mumbai City FC and Northeast United FC.

The Spanish coach of ATK, José Molina, who replaced Antonio Habas at the helm at the start of the season, has appreciated the willingness of the Indian players to learn and work hard. “I think, all Indian players are doing a great job from the beginning. I was absolutely impressed with them from the beginning. They want to work, they want to learn, want to improve from the beginning. That is what impressed me. The quality is there, (that) you expect that from professional players,” Molina said. Molina has had an extensive professional career with Atlético Madrid (who partly owns ATK) and Deportivo de La Coruña in Spain, and has represented Spain in the 1998 World Cup and two European Championships.

ATK brings together India and Europe

Players, whose original clubs have links with the teams in India, have found their way to ISL, with ATK being a top choice. Borja Fernandez who has played for Real Madrid, José Luis Espinosa Arroyo popularly known as Tiri, signed from ATK’s sister club Atletico de Madrid, Pablo José Gallardo Zurera who has played with several clubs and Daniel ‘Dani’ Mallo Castro, a Spanish footballer, have all added a Spanish touch to the league.

Steve Coppell stated, earlier in a press conference, “If India is really serious about developing its football, there has to be a policy to have more academies and facilities for young players to play and develop to make India a football force.” Training remains a big challenge in the country where sports infrastructure remains poor. However, with growing focus and initiatives from events such as the ISL, India is looking at a more action packed future for its footballers.

Tags: football in India, Indian football, Atlético de Kolkata, Indian Super League in India, Indian Super League, ISL, Kerala, Manchester United, Steve Coppell, Delhi Dynamos, Chennaiyin FC, FC Goa, FC Pune City, Mumbai City FC and Northeast United FC, José Molina, Atlético Madrid, Borja Fernandez, Real Madrid, José Luis Espinosa, Spanish footballer, Kerala Blasters, sports infrastructure India, freestyle, freestyle masala, news, sports,

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