The best thing about Indian football is its steadfast growth. It wasn't just the Indian Super League (ISL) that singlehandedly catapulted the popularity of the game in India. The I-League as well as the international matches played their part in achieving wonders.
The calendar year saw the second season of the ISL, and there couldn't have been a better way of drawing the curtains to it. The ISL 2015 final turned out to be a blockbuster.
Sunil Chhetri, Robin Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, were household names even before, but everyone became witness to their class once again, thanks to the ISL as well as the I-League — the premier football league of the nation. Thongkhosiem Haokip, Amrinder Singh, Rehenesh, Jackichand Singh — heard their names a year back? Well, they are household names now too.
The best thing about the beautiful game in India is that every year, we are seeing new names coming to the fore. This is a massive positive news as we look get set to welcome the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the nation, less than two years from now.
Football in India has always been criticised, but in the last few years, we have seen changes happening. For the good, mostly. Be it the discussions in social media or an "adda over chai" about East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the bylanes of Kolkata, Indian football is being discussed way more than the recent years. And that's exactly the change we want!
We have listed the Top 5 Indian football matches from the calendar year. Each of them turned out to be a classic:
ISL 2015: Kerala Blasters 2-3 Atletico de Kolkata
This match had "classic" written all over it as three goals in the last 10 minutes of the game decided it. It was 1-1 until the 80th minute of play at a packed JLN Stadium in Kochi, when Arata Izumi got the lead for the visitors.
Antonio German cancelled that out the next moment, and it was 2-2 at the 90th minute. The ISL 2015 has been all about goals at the death, and this match was no exception: Izumi struck once more to eke out the win for the ISL 2014 champions.
Kerala Blasters came back from a goal down twice in the game, but Atletico de Kolkata super sub Arata Izumi stole the show with his stoppage-time goal. Catch the highlights of the game HERE.
ISL 2015 semifinals 2nd leg: Atletico de Kolkata 2-1 Chennaiyin FC
Atletico de Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC made it to the last four of the ISL this time as well, but it was Chennaiyin FC who showed true nerves of steel. The Kolkata side were trailing by three goals as they went into the second leg.
It was all or nothing at the Salt Lake Stadium in the City of Joy as the home side had a huge task of overturning the deficit of goals. Dejan Lekic got the opener for ATK, and sensational Canadian forward Iain Hume scored just before the 90th minute to make the score 3-2 in favour of Chennaiyin.
One more goal was needed from ATK to take the game to extra time. However, cometh the hour, cometh an unlikely hero! Fikru, who was the hotshot for ATK in 2014, scored at the death for Chennaiyin FC to make the aggregate score 4-2. Chennai made their first ISL final in two years. Catch the highlights of the game HERE.
CFL 2015: East Bengal 4-0 Mohun Bagan
South Korean attacking midfielder Do Dong Hyun made East Bengal fans rejoice at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata as they decimated arch-rivals and I-League champions Mohun Bagan in a sensational Kolkata derby.
The Red-and-Gold brigade clinched their sixth CFL title in a row, and to win it by defeating their traditional rivals was pure joy. The CFL (Calcutta Football League) is one of the most celebrated football leagues in India, and a CFL Kolkata Derby is a red-letter day in the Bengali calendar.
I-League 2015 final: Bengaluru FC 1-1 Mohun Bagan
Witnessing a "final" in a football league season may sound very weird, but that is exactly what transpired earlier this year. Both sides had the chance of bagging the coveted trophy in the final game of the season. While Bengaluru FC needed a win, Mohun Bagan needed atleast a draw.
Not many occasions around the world where you get this kind of a scenario at the end of the league season. Two defenders — Bengaluru FC's John Johnson and Mohun Bagan's Bello Rasaq — were the men of the day.
Until the 85th minute, it looked like BFC were going to lift their second I-League title in two years. But everything changed after that. Find out how!
ISL 2015 final: FC Goa 2-3 Chennaiyin FC
The ISL 2015 final doesn't feature at No 1 in our list just because of its importance. This match was a classic example of the levels Indian football have reached now. Goals at the death was the main highlight of ISL 2015, and the final match of the competition proved once more.
Two goals at the death changed it all and handed Chennaiyin FC their first ISL trophy. Until the 89th minute, it was FC Goa all the way, but then, an error as well as a superstar changed it all.
Re-live the game to find out what happened, and why Stiven Mendoza was adjudged the Hero of the League. Catch the highlights of the game HERE.