As the I-League is about to start, we take a closer look at every team. Today we have last season’s I-League second division champion Mohammedan Sporting Club.
The Kolkata-based team was founded in Kolkata in 1891. It is one of the biggest and most popular clubs in India. The club has won many trophies over the years. Their honors include Federation Cup, Durand Cup, Calcutta Football League, IFA Shield, Rovers Cup, etc.
The Black Panthers will be Kolkata’s only representative in the prestigious league. Last year in the I-League second division, they won their qualifying group with 12 points in 6 games. Thus, they progressed to the final round of the league, termed as ‘I-League Qualifiers’, with four other teams.
They eventually came out on top as they won 3 of the 4 games and drew the other. They defeated their main competitor Bhawanipore Club 2-0 and finished a point ahead of them.
Managerial Staff of Mohammedan Sporting Club:
The club, part of the big three of Kolkata football, appointed Jose Carlos Rodriguez Hevia as their head coach. The Spaniard is a UEFA Pro Licensed Coach with over 25 years of coaching experience at various levels. He started his Coaching career managing various Clubs across Spain.
Then in India, he was part of Arsenal Soccer Schools in India. Also, he worked at Minerva Punjab, Shillong Lajong FC before. Then Jose became a part of the joint venture between Madhya Bharat Sports Club and Celtic Soccer Academy which was set up to implement a football development model in Bhopal, India.
In December, Shankarlal Chakraborty was named the technical director of the team. The Bengali took charge of Mohun Bagan in 2018 and led them to Calcutta Football League glory. It ended East Bengal’s eight-year reign in the domestic competition. However, he failed to win the I-League with the Mariners.
Other managerial staff includes assistant coach Crispin Chhetri, goalkeeping coach Sudip Sarkar.
Mohammedan Sporting Club Transfers:
The Black Panthers have brought in some talented players in the squad. However, the arrival of Bangladesh national team captain Jamal Bhuyan has turned many heads. Jamal was born in Denmark and started his playing career at the famous FC Copenhagen club.
After playing for a few European clubs, he moved to his home country Bangladesh with Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Club. He also played for Sheikh Russel and Saif Sporting Club and has won a couple of Bangladesh Premier League titles. Moreover, he made 44 appearances for the Bangladesh national team and won two bronze medals in the South Asian Games 2016 and 2019.
“I am very happy to be a player of Mohammedan Sporting Club. I love new challenges and it’s a very nice challenge for me to come to Mohammedan Sporting Club. The club’s history fascinates me. I also wanted a new experience, in a new country. It will be an interesting experience for me.”– Jamal Bhuyan
Another notable signing is of the Ghanaian striker Philip Adjah. This is his second stint with the Kolkata giants. He scored 31 goals in 30 games in his first stint. Then he played for Calcutta Customs, Neroca FC, Bhowanipore Club before returning to Mohammedan. The 22-year-old forward is a very prolific goal scorer and will strengthen the team immensely.
“It feels great to be back at the club where I made some amazing memories. The atmosphere at this club is amazing and everybody is professional in their approach.”– Philip Adjah
A few other signings include Gurtej, Rafique Ali Sardar from SC East Bengal, Arashpreet Singh, Avinabo Bag, Alen Deory etc.
Goalkeepers: Priyant Singh, Kunzang Bhutia, Miraj Ali Ata, Subham Roy.
Defenders: Safiul Rahman, Sujit Sadhu, Arashpreet Singh, Kingsley Obumneme, Balwinder Singh, Hira Mondal, Manoj Mohammad, Asheer Akhtar, Arijit Bagui, Avinabo Bag.
Midfielders: Mohammed Fatau, Sattyam Sharma, Firoj Ali, Aditya Saha, Jamal Bhuyan, Altamash Sayed, SK Faiaz.
Forwards: Vanlalbiaa Chhangte, Jaskaranpreet Singh, Sanjib Ghosh, Shamsad Ali, Pritam Sarkar, Gani Nigam, Alen Deory, Tirthankar Sarkar, Moinuddin Khan, Faisal Ali, Raphael Onwrebe, Philip Adjah, Subash Singh, Suraj Rawat, Gourav Mukhi.
Head Coach: Jose Hevia.
Assistant Coach: Crispin Chhetri.
Technical Director: Sankarlal Chakraborty.
Jamal will definitely be a key player in the team. His experience certainly makes him very special and his leadership skills will benefit the team.
Moreover, Philip Adjah is a very dangerous young striker. He is quick and has an eye for goal. The prolific Ghanaian will spearhead the Black Panthers’ attack.
Goalkeeper Priyant Singh is also a player to watch out for. He is a very sharp shot-stopper and can organize his backline commandingly.
Also, youngsters Tirthankar, Sanjib, Arijit, Avinabo, Aditya will shine if they are given the chance.
Predicted Final Position: Third
This season’s I-League will be very competitive. Many coaches and players have already acknowledged it. The teams have less time to prepare and organize for a tournament like I-League.
However, teams like Real Kashmir, Chennai City FC, Punjab FC have a very strong squad. Real Kashmir, who recently won the IFA Shield, are very likely to win the league. But Punjab and Chennai will put up a strong fight till the end. Mohammedan SC can challenge for the title if their team finds rhythm in time. Their attack will be pivotal for their run in the I-League, especially since Philip Adjah has a huge responsibility on his shoulders.
Teams like Churchill Brothers and Gokulam FC will also be tough challengers. Both teams are quite strong. One is a former I-League winner and the other is the 2019 Durand Cup champion. But, the Black Panthers have the quality in their squad to beat them and fight for the top spot.
Now, Aizawl FC, Neroca FC, TRAU may not have the x-factor in their team to do well in this competitive league, and hence Hevia’s side is expected to finish above them. Indian Arrows and Sudeva Delhi FC are relying on their Indian talents to do well in the league. However, lack of experience and quality in the Mohammedan side may see them finish above the lot.
Mohammedan SC made a fairly strong squad. Their experienced managerial staff will be instrumental in their season. If the team finds a rhythm and gets going, they will challenge for the title as their technical director expects.
“For a big club like Mohammedan Sporting, we believe that our target should always be to win the trophy. We have to plan it all out together. First and foremost, we have to explain the equation to the players as well, that we need to finish in the top six first, in order to challenge for the title. So we need to go one step at a time”– Shankarlal Chakraborty
Mohammedan Sporting Club will start their I-League journey on 9th January at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan.