“It gives me great pleasure to announce that we have decided to bring back our football team,” – JCT Ltd Chairman Sameer Thapar.
BOOM! The news of the revival of one of the most prestigious clubs in India, formerly known as JCT Mills FC, worked the football fans in the country into a delirium. Known as The Millmen, JCT FC was disbanded after the 2011 season, soon after the club was relegated from the top flight football in India (read I-League). It was no rocket science that the Phagwara based club was financially in tatters building up to the disheartening decision to disband the club. The club released a statement claiming –
“JCT Limited has taken a strategic decision to pull out for the time being till football in India shows some possibility of generating value for corporates and their brands, besides bringing up popularity of football among youngsters“
Samir Thapar is quite clearly ready to seize the opportunity which the football market in India currently presents. With the beautiful game in this country undergoing major changes courtesy projects like Indian Super league, coupled with refurbishment of the national league and other competitions, the JCT Limited Chairman felt the time was apt to hit the football scene with a revitalized senior team.
Former Champions of India, JCT Football Club is no new name for the football followers in the country. Once a powerhouse in mainstream football, JCT FC flaunts a legacy when it comes to football in North India. In last 3 decades of its existence in the Indian football scene, JCT, often reffered to as Pride of Punjab among it’s faithful, 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. The Millmen sprang a surprise – the Phagwara team finished as Runner’s up in as recent as 2006/07 campaign, once again attesting the effectiveness and authority of their youth system.
The news could not have been more impactful, especially after the lack of football in North India. It is not that football isn’t played as much as in the rest of the football vibrant parts of the nation, just that there is no club good enough to enter into the top flight football. The return of JCT, rekindles a fire- The fire among the young academy players to play for a club which nurtured them.
Samir Thapar also announced that the club is living up to its reputation of sound academy structure with a collaborative deal with Arsenal Soccer Schools. The academy would be named “India On Track”. Citing help from this academy for his junior players, Thapar is hoping that his senior team would soon burst into the top division, initially started from second division. The academy, to begin with, will induct fifty players from Punjab with a parallel eye on their studies. The players will be hailing from the age group 10-16. The academy will be set up in Hoshiarpur, Punjab. Last but not the least; Mr. Thapar concluded that the training will be free of cost to the players.
Punjab has always contributed to Indian football, and the disbandment of the was a one of the dark days in Indian football. JCT FC has seen players like IM Vijayan (Former India Captain), Baichung Bhutia (Former India Captain), Sunil Chettri (India Captain), Penn Orji, Chidi Edeh, Karanjit Singh (India Goalkeeper), Balwant Singh ( Top Indian goal scorer last season) Baljit Singh Saini (East Bengal Striker), Ajay Singh ( Durand Cup winner with Md. Sporting last season), Gurtej Singh (I-League Winner with Bengaluru FC last season) and many more don the famous Red-&-White jersey, and with the comeback, the club would be hoping to produce many more from its robust academy structure. With ever changing times in Indian Football, this is the most exciting news in recent times. Let’s hope the former champions make a quick return to top flight football and fans in North India have a club to support and look up to.