Jagatjit Cotton and Textile Mills Football Club or JCT Mills Football Club has long been the face of football in Punjab and has been one of the prime clubs in of Northern India. JCT have been instrumental in lifting the standard of football and popularization of the game in Punjab. Also known as “the Millmen“, JCT has played an important role in grooming and polishing the crude football talent of the state into the players of international standard.
JCT Football Club, an Indian professional football club based in Phagwara (Punjab), was established in the year 1971. They are patronized by Jagatjit Cotton and Textile Mills under the leadership of Samir Thapar and have emerged as one of the most successful Indian football clubs over the years. They play in the National Football League , now better known as the I-league, and Punjab State Super League. The club got fan recognition in the year 1974, when it was able to attract well established players from “Leader Club”, Jalandhar; which was one the biggest clubs in the region then. One of the famous and well distinguished player amongst them was Inder Singh, who captained the Indian National team at the AFC Asian Cup held in 1964. He was the top scorer in that edition and was also comprehended in the distinguished list of Arjuna Award winning sportsmen in our country.
Since the inception, the primary aim of this football club has been developing professional standard of football in the country. JCT Limited has also been involved in the Punjab Football Association (PFA) for the last three decades. JCT won the innagural NFL title in the 1996-1997 season. In January 2007, the JCT management decided to change the club name from JCT Mills FC to JCT FC. Some of the famous players like IM Vijayan, current Indian captain Bhaichung Bhutia, Sunil Chettri, Rennedy Singh and Sukhwinder ‘Sukhi’ Singh have embraced the football pitch in JCT’s red and white colors.
Robust Academy Structure:
JCT flaunts one of the most robust academy structures in India . JCT Limited set up a Under-19 football academy at Phagwara in 1998 to train budding players. The credit of setting up a Football Academy again goes to Mr. Samir Thapar, who is now the Vice Chairman and Managing Director of JCT Limited. Not only he is a huge sports enthusiast but also walks the talk by investing in the sport and the youth develpopment of the country.
The Purpose of this academy is to provide an opportunity where the young aspirants can nurture their talent with a sense of direction and purpose; thereby enabling them to stay the course and make a career out of their love for football. On a mission, JCT Academy is out to build a sense of confidence in today’s youth that the club, state and country recognizes the game and hence, rewards their abilities.
The total expenditure of the academy is being borne by JCT Limited. Within a short span since its inception, the JCT Football Academy has produced many National/International level footballers, who are gaining exposure in the top clubs of India. Another usful by-product of the academy is to protect the youth from drug abuse by involving them in sports and educational activities. It funds their studies in colleges, especially at the Guru Nanak College, Phagwara. Apart from the Facilities being provided at the academy, which include free boarding, lodging, medical, education, kits etc, JCT management also provides them monthly stipend as well.
Apart from this under-19 academy , JCT also set up a under-16 football academy at Rurka Kalan in the year 2005. This academy aims at guiding and train potential sports children from the tender age of 10 onwards. This was a giant step towards improving the beautiful game at grass-root level. The JCT Rurka Kalan Football Academy regularly takes part in the Manchester United Premier Football Cup and other premier age group tournaments in the country, which includes the Subroto Mukherjee Cup and Inter-school Games organized under the banner of School Games Federation of India. Players of JCT Rurka Kalan Academy also take part in the AIFF Under-13/Under-14 Football Festivals every year. JCT also has a team of experts from this academy, which visits remote villages in the state, where football is the most popular game, and picks up the talented youngsters, introduces them to formal training and groom them into skillful performers.
In last 3 decades of its existence in the Indian football scene, JCT was the first club outside Kolkata to win the prestigious IFA Shield in 1996. JCT was the first Indian club to take the initiative and think out of the box when the club management appointed a foreign coach. One of their major achievements till date is winning the opening edition of the National Football League in 1996. They finished 3rd in the 2007-2008 season of the newly formed I-League. The team has been 8 times winner of the Punjab Football League and 5 times winner of the coveted Durand club. The club also won the federation cup twice consecutively in 1995 and 1996. JCT also left its mark on the Asian football scene when they represented the country in Asian Club Championship in 1997.
Affiliation with Wolverhampton Wanderers
In May 2008, JCT formed a partnership with Wolverhampton Wanderers, one of the premier clubs in England, famously known as the Wolves. The English club announced a community-led partnership with JCT. The collaboration has seen the club officials, academy staffs and players exchanging visits. Earlier this year, the head coach of the club, Parminder Singh along with a contingent of five players- Pawan Kumar, Balwant Singh, Parveen Kumar, Amarwant Singh and Amandeep Singh spent a week with Wolves first team players as part of the tie-up programme between the two clubs.
JCT was one of the few Indian clubs which met the recently laid AFC criteria and were given a green signal by the visiting AFC committee led by the AFC Chief Bin Hammam. It was attested by the AFC that JCT possesses a good academic structure with flawless management and a decent stadium to boast about. Finishing Runners-up in this year’s Durand Cup edition held in New Delhi, “the Millmen” have sent out a strong massege that they’ll not just be the pushovers in the upcoming I-league season.
~Kunwar Deep Singh