Mohammedan Sporting Club, one of the oldest in the history of Indian Football, had a roller-coaster ride in 2013-14 season. The Black Panthers tasted agony and ecstasy in the same season. Kolkata giants, who were on cloud nine following the victories in Durand Cup 2013 and IFA Shield 2014 was brought back to earth with relegation in I-League. Mohammedan Sporting campaign witnessed both the extremes, the joy and celebrations of conquering one of the oldest football tournaments in the world as well as the despair and dishonor of getting the boot from Indian Football’s top division competition.
Mohammedan Sporting made their way back into I-League after emerging runners up in a 3 way tussle with Rangdajied United, Bhawanipore SC in I-League division Two in 2013. The Black Panthers have a huge fan following all over India, especially in Kolkata and were expected to intensify the Indian Football battles this season.
Mohammedan Sporting didn’t disappoint their followers in their first assignment of 2013/14 season – Durand Cup. The prestigious Durand Cup had two I-League clubs in fray in the form of Pune FC and Mohammedan Sporting. The return of legendary Indian Footballer I.M Vijayan with his Kerala Police team was also a major talking point in the third oldest tournament in the world. Mohammedan Sporting rose to the occasion and played true to their billing with Luciano Sabrosa and Tolgay Ozbey leading their way to the title at the expense of ONGC. This victory lifted the morale and confidence of the players ahead of the I-League campaign.
Durand Cup win wasn’t enough for Mohammedan Sporting to rub shoulders with the country’s elite clubs. Black Panthers season got off to a worst possible start as they suffered 3 defeats on the trot against Pune FC, Salgaocar SC, Bengaluru FC. Mohammedan Sporting woke up from their slumber with wins against Rangdajied United, Sporting Clube de Goa and Mumbai FC. Brazilian striker Josimar inspired a brief resurgence as Black Panthers registered 3 wins and 4 draws in 8 games following their opening 3 defeats. Mohammedan Sporting’s fortunes changed again as they suffered back to back defeats before heading into the winter break in I-League. In between there were some shuffling in the playing and coaching staff, and IMG-R players made their entry at the expense of already contracted players which indicates the lack of professionalism in Indian Football.
Federation Cup 2014 saw mainstream football returning to one of its hot beds in India. The event held in Kerala saw Mohammedan Sporting fighting tooth and neck with Dempo SC. Both the teams finished on 7 points with a two wins and a draw under their belt and it was Dempo SC who progressed to the latter stages with a superior goal difference.
Mohammedan Sporting soon got a chance to reinvigorate their season in IFA Shield. The surprise exit of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan sparked the rise of Bangladeshi club Sheikh Jamal Dhanmodi. Even though both the Kolkata giants had to make way for the Bangladeshi club, the third musketeer, Mohammedans Sporting had the final laugh in-front of the jam packed Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata. Despite going down by a goal and later going down by a man, Mohammedan fought of the Bangladeshi wave and stood firm in the penalty shootout to lift the prestigious cup. As Mohammedan Sporting were analyzing the possibility of an I-League relegation, IFA Shield victory was expected to provide them the momentum for a prolonged stay.
Fixture congestion left the players exhausted as I-League action returned soon. Black Panthers were soon brought back to earth with twin defeats in I-League, as a reminder to their performance following the Durand Cup win. Mohammedan Sporting looked like finding some form by defeating Sporting Clube de Goa. Kolkata side soon lost their momentum as they followed it up with a cluster of draws and defeats, earning just 2 points from 5 games putting them in serious relegation trouble. Mohammedan Sporting were facing an uphill battle against time as the last three I-League games approached with relegation threat looming large over them. Even though they registered 2 wins out of the last three games by notching up an impressive 8 goals in the process, it was too late as defending I-League and Federation Cup champions Churchill Brothers secured their safety at the expense of Mohammedan Sporting.
Josimar Da Silva Martins
The Brazilian striker Josimar has been a thorn in the flesh for I-League defenders with his imposing figure and goal scoring abilities. The Black Panthers scored only 27 goals in 24 I-League fixtures and it was Josimar who scored 13 of them in a campaign where they forgot the path to the opposition goal posts. Mohammedan Sporting ended up with the wooden spoon in I-League and without Josimar, their fate could have sealed much earlier than the last match of the season. Mohammedan Sporting had two brief spells which raised some hopes and Josimar was in fine goal scoring form during that period.
The performance of upcoming wing back Colin Abranches also deserves recognition in a dismal I-League campaign for Black Panthers.
The Nigerian play maker Penn Orji joined the Black Panthers camp from East Bengal with much fan following raising the expectations. Penn Orji was inconsistent throughout the campaign and his return of mere 3 goals despite playing in a crucial number 10 position has upset the rhythm of Mohammedan Sporting attacks. Penn Orji was inconsistent throughout and even failed to pick simple passes on some occasions. His disappearances in crucial games as and when the team expected him to deliver the goods marks his worst season in I-League.
The club management team were also poor throughout. Despite having the resources on board, unnecessary official intervention, constant changing and chopping of players etc. also played a part in Mohammedan Sporting’s downfall.
Most Memorable Match(es)
Durand Cup and IFA Shield Triumphs
Victories are always sweeter and triumphs can be cherished in the long run. Mohammedan Sporting Club had two sweet memories to savour from this season. Durand Cup final victory over ONGC and IFA Shield final victory over Sheikh Dhanmodi showed the ability of Mohammedan players to step up when it matters the most. Black Panthers didn’t get overawed by the occasion and lifted both the crowns in style. Trading a spot in I-League over a cup triumph might have been an option, but the sweet memories of a tournament victory can be cherished in the years to come and that feeling is just irreplaceable.
Most Disappointing Match
Mohammedan Sporting 4 – 5 Shillong Lajong FC
It was a do-or-die battle for Mohammedan Sporting, they were threatened by relegation and a victory over the North Eastern outfit could have given some much needed breathing space. Playing in their home comforts at Kolkata, backed by a vociferous crowd, it was a winnable match for the Black Panthers to ease some pressure. Ashim Bishwas took the lead as early as in fifth minute of the game, still they allowed Shillong Lajong to come back into the game. Twice Mohammedan Sporting rallied from behind, but they couldn’t sustain the momentum, and can only rue their awful defence for not earning a single point where they scored 4 goals. This defeat had almost sealed their I-League fate making it the most disappointing outing of the season.
It was a season which promised bigger things on their return to the top flight of Indian Football. Mohammedan Sporting started brightly with the Durand Cup win and later followed it with IFA shield triumph. In I-League, the story was different as they had to play catch up game after their slow start. Even though they got some momentum in the middle of the season, Black Panthers failed to capitalize on that. They left it too late and eventually failed to raise up to the occasion as return of I-League remained a brief memory for the supporters. In 2013/14 season, the fans suffered the Agony and Ecstasy together and that sums up the Black Panthers season.