Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have dominated the Indian club football scene for decades in Kolkata, and in the city of joy these two teams have fierce support. So fierce is the rivalry between the two that fans of either teams don't see eye-to-eye.
Everyone, by now, is aware of Kolkata's tryst with football. The beautiful game is worshipped and it is nothing but a day of festival when the two heavyweight football clubs go head-to-head against each other.
Now, the presence of another big football club can only be an icing on the cake for the football fans in Kolkata. And when that new team wins the inaugural season of a nationwide football league, there's nothing like it.
Atletico de Kolkata, to put simply, came, fought, and rode away with glory in the first season of the Indian Super League. Co-owned by Kolkata's very own Sourav Ganguly, the franchisee shrugged off competition from teams from the Southern, Northern, and Western parts of India, to earn the bragging rights.
The inaugural champions of the ISL also did something possibly no one could have imagined before – unite Mohun Bagan and East Bengal fans and get them to cheer in unison for one football club.
Mohammad Rafique earned his place in history by scoring the only and the most crucial goal for the Kolkata side at the death in the final against Kerala Blasters last year, as that helped them clinch the trophy.
This year, Atletico de Kolkata are strengthening in every possible way to retain the title, and give the plethora of football fans in Kolkata a reason to cheer once more.
Road to ISL season 2
One of the major acqusitions this year has been that of Portugal international Helder Postiga, who plied his trade in the FIFA World Cup in Brazil last year. Former marquee player Luis Garcia, however, has been released.
Even star forward Fikru has moved to Chennaiyin FC, but former Kerala Blasters striker Ian Hume is expected to fill Fikru's void on the attacking front.
Spanish defender Josemi along with Borja Fernandes -- who had a stellar last season with ATK -- has been retained for this edition as well, and among the Indians, the presence of new signings Arata Izumi and Clifford Miranda, along with utility player Rahim Nabi, is expected to bolster the squad.
The Kolkata outfit went on a month-long tour of Madrid to get up and running for the second edition of the ISL, and they have registered a perfect win record in the friendly games -- both in Spain, and after returning home.
Here are the results:
Atletico de Kolkata 9-0 Gimnastica
Atletico de Kolkata 2-0 Alcobendas CF
Atletico de Kolkata 3-1 CDA Navalcarnero
Atletico de Kolkata 4-2 Aryan FC
Helder Postiga : The experienced forward is expected to be the star man for the ISL champions once the tournament gets under way. The 33-year-old scored a hat-trick for the Kolkata side as they thrashed Gimnastica 9-0 in the opening preseason game. Not only that, the experience of playing alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo in the national scene will bring the best out of the rest of the players in the squad.
Rino Anto: The Bengaluru FC right-back, who was bought by the ISL franchisee for a whopping Rs 90 lakh in the Player Auctions this summer, could turn out to be the joker in the pack. The Kerala lad, who was stamped at a base price of just Rs.17.5 lakh in the auctions, has played an instrumental role for the I-League side over two seasons, and he is good both in attack and defence.
Atletico de Kolkata: Full squad:
Goalkeepers: Amrinder Singh, Kunzang Bhutia, Juan Calatayud.
Defenders: Arnab Mondal, Denzil Franco, Josemi, Mohan Raj Nallapan, Augustin Fernandes, Tiri, Lalchhawnkima, Rino Anto.
Midfielders: Borja Fernandez, Ofentse Nato, Jewel Raja, Syed Rahim Nabi, Clifford Miranda, Arata Izumi, Jaime Gavilan, Sameehg Doutie, Valmiro Lopes Rocha (Valdo), Javi Lara.
Forwards: Iain Edward Hume, Helder Postiga, Nadong Bhutia, Baljit Sahni, Sushil Kumar Singh.
Head Coach: Antonio Lopez Habas.
Atletico de Kolkata take on Chennaiyin FC in the inaugural game of the ISL this season at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai on 3 October. The Kolkata side face Kerala Blasters on 13 October in their first home game of the season.
Thoughts of Indian defensive rock Arnab Mondal