Mohun Bagan clinched the I-League 2019-20 title with a 1-0 win over Aizawl FC at Kalyani Stadium in Kolkata. By winning the title with four games to spare, the Mariners made their last season in the I-League a memorable one. From next season Mohun Bagan will play in the Indian Super League because of the merger of the 130-year old club with ISL side ATK.
Complete dominance of Mohun Bagan in 2019-2020 season
As Babacar Diawara produced a spectacular strike in the 80th minute of the match between Mohun Bagan and Aizawl FC, the green and maroon supporters went into frenzy. The country’s oldest Football club won the I-league for the second time in five years, completely dominating this edition by winning the title with four rounds to spare. Dempo SC of Goa had also sealed the I-League title in 2009-10 season with four matches left to play.
If the National Football League(NFL) which was later christened as I-League is taken into consideration, then Mohun Bagan Club won a total of five titles- three NFL and two I-League. Dempo SC is the only other club which has won a total of five titles- three I-League and two NFL.
Mohun Bagan’s dominance in this edition of I-League is clearly visible as the club accumulated an unassailable 39 points from 16 matches. With their win against Aizawl FC, Mohun Bagan FC has now gone 14 matches unbeaten in the league, after losing their only match of the season so far against Churchill Brothers in December 2019.
X-factors for Mohun Bagan
After a forgettable 2018-19 I-League season when Mohun Bagan lost to arch-rivals East Bengal twice before ending their campaign with a disappointing fifth-place finish, the club officials appointed Kibu Vicuna of Spain as the team’s coach.
Vicuna, who formerly coached players like Raul Garcia, Cesar Azpilicueta, Javi Martinez won the Polish League and the Polish Cup in 2012-13 as part of Legia Warsaw coaching staff. But what made him different from other foreign coaches in India was his ability to understand Bagan’s philosophy and playing style.
Vicuna stuck to his plan of knowing his players thoroughly through the pre-League football season matches like in Durand Cup, Calcutta Football League and Sheikh Jamal Cup. Despite this, Mohun Bagan had a lacklustre performance in their first two games. After a tame draw against Aizawl, the Mariners lost their home match to Churchill Brothers. Vicuna was quick in his decision to replace Sankar Roy as the goalkeeper in place of Debjit Majumdar. He also suggested a change for Salva Chamorro who could not convert several opportunities into goals.
Just after two games, Mohun Bagan was a different unit with attacking policy and passing games. The highlight of this season’s I-League was the third goal scored by Mohun Bagan against Churchill Brothers in Goa. The goal featured a total of 23 successive passes across the length and breadth of the pitch before Komron Tursonov made the final move to end it in a goal.
The goal has been showcased by the All India Football Federation to show the ‘significant progression’ of I-League where the Mariners have been the chief proponents of ‘beautiful football’ under Spanish head coach Kibu Vicuna.
Mohun Bagan signed Babacar Diawara in place of Salva Chamorro after their loss to Churchill Brothers this season. The 31-year-old Senegalese took little time to gel with the team and was prolific in his outings. To give sheer joy to the Mohun Bagan fanatics Diawara scored 10 goals in 12 matches, of which the first one was scored against Bagan’s arch rival East Bengal. For Vicuna, “Papa is the best striker in the competition. Not only is he scoring but he is also helping the team during set-pieces.”
Babacar’s movements inside the box while creating space for his teammates had an immense impact on the team’s strategy. His performance inspired other players like Subha Ghosh, Nongdamba Naorem, VP Suhair to give their best in the matches.
Mohun Bagn made their last I-League appearance special
The Kolkata giants are playing their last I-League this season due to its merger with ISL team Atletico de Kolkata. The team will play in the more lucrative ISL in the next season and therefore made its last appearance in the traditional Indian Football League a special one.
The two Kolkata clubs have come together to form a new entity, perhaps to be called ATK-Mohun Bagan, that will come into effect from June 1, 2020. ATK owner Sanjeev Goenka now owns 80 per cent of the new club while Mohun Bagan has the remaining 20 per cent shares.
There has been a mixed reaction from the supporters of Mohun Bagan after the merger. But Bagan’s assistant general secretary Srinjoy Bose said that the association in no way would have a negative impact on the century-old club’s identity.
“It is clearly mentioned (in the MoU) that we are a supporter-based club… It’s very clearly understood between us and mentioned that club logo and colours will be preserved and the essence won’t be disturbed. It’s very clear,” Bose told PTI.
Whether the merge will be a trend-setter, future will tell. But the merger has definitely made the fans broken hearted as they will be deprived from watching the century-old Kolkata Derby, locally known as the ‘Boro Match’. The rivalry between Mohun Bagan-East Bengal attracts huge crowd and has been considered as one of the biggest rivalries in Asia. The teams will meet on March 15, 2020 for their reverse league match and that can perhaps be the last Mohun Bagan-East Bengal clash unless and until East Bengal joins ISL or Mohun Bagan rejoins I-League or the new entity plays the Kolkata League.