Table of Contents
The Glorious Tradition
In the 1930s there was mainly a tale of ‘One Club’ in Indian football and that was Mohammedan Sporting. The Black Panthers after having introduced themselves in 1891, were the first native Indian club to have won Calcutta Football League in 1934. The record was created when the team went on to win consecutive next four editions of the League and winning CFL five times in a row lasted as a rare feat until East Bengal touched it in the 1970s, winning CFL consecutively five times from 1970 to 1975. In only nine years of their dominance in Kolkata and Indian football from 1934 to 1942, Mohammedan Sporting clinched titles including CFLs, three Durand Cups, three IFA Shields, and a Rovers Cup. During their glorious years, the club produced several outstanding footballers. Mohammed Salim’s name should be mentioned as he was the first Indian footballer to have been called up by Scottish giants Celtic FC. But unfortunately, homesick Salim returned in the middle of the season and rejoined Mohammedan Sporting.
Mohammedan Sporting Downfall
The glory started becoming faded in the 1950s while the tale of two other powerhouses in Indian football, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan had come into the limelight. Mohammedan Sporting, in the last 40 to 50 years has lost its luster in all aspects. The team was sporadic in performance as it gradually fell except showing inconsistency such as winning CFL after 38 years in 1981, reaching the semifinals in the Nehru Centenary Club Cup. On the other hand, the club management was failing to increase membership. The very old infrastructure had become useless. The condition of the club’s ground gradually turned worse. In one sentence the club was doomed to the slump.
The Black Panthers, coming out of the coffin, is now a different and rejuvenated club. Under the new management led by secretary Danish Iqbal and his associates, including former Indian international footballer Dipendu Biswas who is the club’s football secretary, the club is coming up with a new dimension comprising the utmost modernism that can be compared to any top foreign club.
The Revolution in Infrastructure
Every traditional feature at the club premises has changed. The main tent is being dismantled. A two-storied Clubhouse is going to be finished within the next couple of months where there will be two new dressing rooms. All these air-conditioned dressing rooms will have separate lockers for each footballer, a cabinet for storing jerseys, and a modern bathroom like any top foreign club. Interestingly the archaic and dilapidated canteen has already been demolished. Now a state-of-the-art well-equipped cafeteria has taken its place. From pasta to hot fish fries are now two of the most popular dishes there.
Club secretary Danish Iqbal while talking about the infrastructure, described,
“We already got permission from the army to rebuild our membership gallery. Now we have 1200 members. With the reconstruction of additional membership galleries, the number of members will reach more than two thousand.”
Additionally, the footballers’ path from the tent to the field has been radically changed as they will be entering the ground through an air-conditioned tunnel.
Significantly, the club has reconstructed on the field of international standards. Two layers of sand are provided so that the field does not become as muddy as before during the monsoons. Along with it, a new drainage system has been constructed for 45 lakh rupees. Dipendu Biswas claimed,
“We are moving towards modernity while retaining history. According to the management, it will cost nearly 2 crores to reintroduce the Mohammedan Sporting with a ground-breaking dimension”
Danish informed that state’s Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee is likely to inaugurate the new clubhouse on the club’s foundation day on 22nd February, next year.
Mohammedan Sporting Looking Forward to ISL
Mohammedan Sporting is determined to participate in the Indian Super League (ISL) next season. Secretary revealed,
“If we fail to win the I-League this season then we will make a bid for the ISL. We have plans to request the state Chief Minister to take initiative if ISL organizers do not open bidding. We are assured of another financial assistance apart from our present sponsorship regarding the investment for the bidding process.”
The Revenue Earning Plans
The club executives have also planned to generate avenues that will help them to become financially sustainable in the future. Danish stated,
“We are already in search of land on the outskirts of Kolkata to set up a residential football school which will be a major avenue for helping us to earn. Then we have plans to introduce ‘fan cards’ which will help us to revenue generation through selling. Then we have plans to organize functions and shows as we did last year, inviting Irfan Pathan. So, we will take the drive to make the club financially sustainable for the future. But before all these initiatives, the all-important thing is the team’s performance. If the team starts winning trophies, then all these efforts can easily be materialized.”