THE TOP-TIER COMPETITION of the 118th Calcutta Football League began today with two simultaneous matches. One of the oldest football tournaments in India, CFL is held every summer across 7 divisions (which is further divided into 11 tiers), where about more than a 150 clubs take part every year. While the lower divisions have been on for a few months, the topmost level, Premier Division A, has finally kicked off and will play out over the next one month.
This year the top tier consists of 11 clubs, including the 3 biggies of Kolkata Football: namely East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting. The tournament will be played in a single leg round robin format where every club will play each other once. Whoever has the most points at the end is declared to be the winner. There are no finals or playoffs.
The league has been won by East Bengal or Mohun Bagan for the last 33 years. The last time anyone other than the two arch-rival clubs won the CFL was in 1981, when Mohammedan Sporting won the title. East Bengal are presently riding a high; they have won the last 5 editions of the tournament, aiming to get a record-equaling 6th straight win this year. Although the competition has gotten increasingly tough for the Red and Golds; last year 3 clubs were still in the title race on the last matchday, including Tollygunge Agragami who were the surprise success of last season.
To be played over 55 matches, this year's CFL Premier Division A will have 33 matches televised on Star's regional channel Jalsha Movies. Star are marketing and broadcasting partners of the IFA (WB), and their quality telecast of matches coupled with multi-platform advertising has seen interest grow around the local league.
The two matches on the opening day, however, were not televised. At Barasat, Southern Samity took on Police AC in a gripping 2-2 draw. Police AC took the lead at 14 minutes via a goal scored by Gopal. 3 minutes later, Southern Samity were level as Waheed found his way into the net. 6 minutes later winger Snehashish, who played for clubs like East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the past, put Southern Samity ahead by scoring their second goal. But Police AC drew level early in the second half through a stike from Bidemi. Snehashish was declared the Man of the Match afterwards.
At Gayeshpur, a town in the Nadia district, a second match was simultaneously played out between Aryan Club and BNR. BNR took an early lead in the match as Soumava Das put one past the Aryan keeper. But Stanley brought Aryan back into the game by commanding the midfield. He provided two vital assists to Kazeem and Sumon Malo, and Aryan went on to win the match 2-1. Stanley was judged to be the player of the match.
Tomorrow, the CFL will see Sports Authority of India take on Kalighat MS at Barasat. Things will pick up pace in the weekend when the big three of Kolkata football will kick off their campaigns, including a de facto Kolkata Derby between Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting on Sunday.