AIFF Media Team
KOLKATA: The Calcutta Football League, over the years, has been one of the most coveted football tournaments in India, made famous by the rivalries formed between the likes of Mohun Bagan, East Bengal, and Mohammedan Sporting.
While it was primarily the state leagues that brought players to the fore for the Santosh Trophy or the National Team, that changed in the 1990s with the introduction of the National Football League, and then subsequently that of the I-League and the Indian Super League.
Now, however, the Indian Football Association (West Bengal) are making efforts to revive the CFL as a whole, looking to bring it back to its glory days. From 15 teams, the CFL Premier Division has now grown into a 26-team competition, while the lower divisions have become junior competitions, with the players in each age group progressing to the next level with every passing year. IFA Secretary and recently-appointed AIFF League Committee Member Mr Anirban Dutta feels that the no-foreigners rule introduced by the AIFF for the state leagues has had a big role to play in the league’s increased popularity.
“I must commend the AIFF for taking such a step. Kalyan Chaubey had called to ask us to implement the no-foreigner rule. We were not convinced at first, whether people will come to the matches if we lose the star foreign players, but then we somehow managed to convince our sponsors. Now we are seeing the results,” said Mr Dutta.
“Since there are no foreign players, the matches are much more tightly fought, the difference between the bigger and the smaller clubs are not as much,” he said. “This was a pleasant surprise for us.”
The IFA has introduced a host of changes to the CFL Premier Division, with a digital marketing campaign to inform the fans of the matches, while also bringing in a rolling trophy.
“We’ve done a lot of new things in terms of popularising the league, including introducing a trophy, hosting an opening ceremony, and also conducting a digital marketing campaign to inform the fans of the league,” said Mr Dutta. “However, the main reasons for this increased support are the closely fought matches and the fact that we have brought the league back to the city of Kolkata.”
Having recently become a member of the AIFF League Committee, Mr Dutta will be using his experience in West Bengal football to help the league structure across the country grow further.“I have just joined as a new member, but the League Committee has been doing very well over the past as well. Having a four-tier league system means a lot more football for the players across the country, which could only lead to bigger and better things in the future. I hope to use my own experience to help Indian Football grow further,” he said.