Spreading their wings in Asia: Some memorable nights of the Green and Maroons
10 Aug 2023

AIFF Media Team

NEW DELHI: Playing at the continental level is something special, something cherished by all Indian clubs. Not only does it set a marker on the domestic success that a club has had in the previous season, but it also gives the players a chance to compete internationally, albeit for their club.

Currently, India has three spots in Asian club competitions. The winners of the ISL League Winners’ Shield get direct entry into the AFC Champions League Group Stage, the winners of the Super Cup enter the AFC Cup Group Stage, while the winners of the ISL Final have to win the AFC Cup Preliminary Round 2 and Play-off, before they gain entry to the competition proper.

ATK Mohun Bagan, who have more recently been rechristened as Mohun Bagan Super Giant, have been regular participants in the AFC Cup in recent years and will make their third consecutive appearance in the group stage if they properly navigate through their Preliminary Round 2 and Playoff matches. As the Green and Maroons get set to face Machhindra FC of Nepal in the Preliminary Round 2, we take a look at some of the more inspiring continental performances by the club in the past.

Asian Club Championship 1988

The 1988 Asian Club Championship arguably saw one of the best performances by Mohun Bagan on the continental level, as the Green and Maroons managed to make it to the Semi-final group.

These were the times when two points were awarded for a win and one for a draw. Drawn in Group 3 in the group stage, alongside Crescent Textiles (Pakistan), Kathmandu SC (Nepal), and Fanja SC (Oman), Mohun Bagan were looking to do one better from the previous year, when they missed out on progressing to the Semi-finals group after finishing second.

In 1988, however, when Group 3 was played at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Stadium in Kolkata, the Green and Maroons came out all guns blazing against Crescent Textiles (8-0) and Kathmandu SC (4-2), before winning the last match against Fanja 1-0 to progress to the Semi-finals group.

Sisir Ghosh was the top scorer for the Green and Maroons with five goals to his name.

Asian Club Championship 1994

Coach Shanker Banerjee and his boys continued the good form in Mohun Bagan’s 1994 appearance in the Asian Club Championship as well when they emerged top of the South Asia Group to enter the Second Round East Asia Playoffs. They defeated Club Valencia (Maldives) and Ratnam SC (Sri Lanka) to top their group.

In the Second Round, however, Mohun Bagan had to withdraw from the tournament due to a plague that broke out in Surat. AFC suggested that Mohun Bagan’s home leg against Thai Farmers Bank FC be played in Malaysia. However, the Green and Maroons refused the offer and withdrew from the tournament.

Tausif Jamal was the top scorer for Mohun Bagan, with four goals to his name.

AFC Champions League 2016 Preliminary Round

Mumbai City FC made India proud with their performance in the AFC Champions League group stage last season. However, before, when India did not have a direct entry into the AFC Champions League proper, Mohun Bagan’s performance in 2016 stands out as the only win by an Indian club in the preliminary stages.

Facing Tampines Rovers of Singapore at the VYBK in Kolkata, Mohun Bagan produced a fine performance to win 3-1, as Jeje Lalpekhlua, Cornell Glen, and Katsumi Yusa netted one each. Progressing to Preliminary Round 2, however, the Green and Maroons had to face Shandong Luneng (China), a match that they lost 0-6.

AFC Cup 2016

The 2016 AFC Cup will forever be remembered by Indian Football fans for Bengaluru FC’s run to the final. Mohun Bagan, however, were also in fine form in that edition of the continental competition, under head coach Sanjoy Sen.

Having lost their Champions League Preliminary Round 2 match against Shandong, the Green and Maroons directly entered the Group Stage and were drawn against South China AA (Hong Kong), Yangon United (Myanmar), and Maziya Sports and Recreation Club (Maldives) in Group G. Mohun Bagan finished top of the group, with their only loss coming at home against South China AA (0-3); the previous leg ended 4-0 in the Green and Maroons’ favour in Hong Kong.

Ironically, they faced Tampines Rovers again in the Round of 16, but suffered a 1-2 loss this time, after the Singapore side scored in extra time. Jeje Lalpekhlua was the highest scorer for the Green and Maroons with six goals.

AFC Cup 2021

These were rather strange times for football. While the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the world, specific precautions were taken to hold the Group Stages in one venue (National Football Stadium, Male, Maldives). The Green and Maroons, however, produced some fine performances in Group D against Bashundhara Kings (Bangladesh), Bengaluru FC (India), and Maziya S&RC (Maldives), to finish top of the pile and book their spot at the Inter-zone play-off semi-final.

In the knockout stage, however, they suffered a 0-6 thrashing at the hands of Nasaf Qarshi of Uzbekistan.

AFC Cup 2022

The previous edition of the AFC Cup was also partially played under the veil of the bio-bubble, with Group D held in Kolkata. This time, the Green and Maroons faced Bashundhara Kings (Bangladesh), Maziya S&RC (Maldives), and Gokulam Kerala FC (India). Starting off with a shock 2-4 defeat at the hands of Gokulam Kerala, the Green and Maroons showed great character to win their remaining matches and finish top of the group.

Their Inter-zone play-off semi-final against Kuala Lumpur City (Malaysia) was an absolute cliffhanger. ATK Mohun Bagan thought they took the match into extra time when Fardin Ali Molla scored a 90th-minute equaliser, but Fakrul Aiman Sidid and Romel Morales scored in injury time for Kuala Lumpur to snatch the match away from the Green and Maroons.

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