THE LANDMARK 125TH EDITION of the Calcutta Football League will be held with a Premier Division that's bigger than ever.
The West Bengal state league, popularly known as CFL, goes seven divisions deep and has more than a hundred and fifty clubs playing in it; from amateurs all the way to I-League and ISL giants. Its top tier, the Premier Division, used to be divided into two (A and B) but this time the IFA (Indian Football Association, West Bengal) has decided to bring them together as two groups.
26 clubs will play in this large competition, divided into two groups of 13. In the first round, each club will play everyone else in the group once in a round-robin format. The top three teams from each group will then progress to the 'Super Six', which will be the championship round.
The composition of the two groups were decided by the IFA today, and they are as follows...
Group I: Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan Sporting, Calcutta FC, Tollygunge Agragami, Southern Samity, Dalhousie FC, Food Corporation of India, Peerless FC, Kalighat MS, Army Red, Diamond Harbour FC, United SC, Pathachakra FC
Group II: East Bengal, Bhawanipore FC, Police AC, Eastern Railways FC, Kidderpore FC, Calcutta Customs, WB Police, BSS FC, Aryan Club, George Telegraph, Railway FC, Rainbow FC, Wari FC
The arch rivals and two ISL giants, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, are likely to field young, developmental sides in the CFL this season; and defending champions Mohammedan Sporting may take a similar approach.
Although most of the games in the first stage may not be marquee match-ups, it still provides some interesting clashes. Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting, a de facto 'mini derby', is set to take place early on in the season. Also, East Bengal are going up against Bhawanipore FC, who are seen by the fans as a B team of Mohun Bagan.
Also interesting to behold will be the match-up between United SC and Pathachakra, two clubs known for their work in youth football who have had a long-standing partnership when fielding temas in the national level youth leagues.
The big three of Kolkata football, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting are all expected to play several CFL matches in their own stadiums; which invariably attracts large crowds due to the fans' fondness for the compact Maidaan arenas that place them just a few feet away from the action.