Gokulam Kerala vs ATK Mohun Bagan. I-League vs Indian Super League. New vs. Old. Champions against Champions.
Despite the common theme of the two Indian clubs facing each other in the AFC Cup (again), this game is a study of contradictions. Nothing more than the clarity of their identity. On paper, this is just a meeting between two Group D rivals, but a bigger story revolves around what these two sides represent – their future in Indian football.
Gokulams are the defining side of their identity, which brings them incredible success on the pitch. Founded only in 2017, the club already boasts the Durand Cup, two I-League titles, two Kerala Premier League titles, and the Indian Women’s League title, which occupies its cupboard.
Success brings with it a growing relationship with the fans as the GKFC gets used to playing in front of crowded stands in football-mad Kozhikod. Even when the epidemic stops, the connection with their fans remains strong.
As for the connection between ATK Mohun Bagan and their “fans” … let’s just say it’s a little sad at the moment. The giants of Calcutta have been struggling with their identities off the field lately, but on the pitch they have begun to develop a simple side view with their style of play.
The appointment of Juan Ferrando led to the ISL semi-finals, but the team’s shortcomings could still be pointed out as they descended to future champions Hyderabad.
Fernando deserves credit for bringing the team to a team that completely lost it when he took over, making it even more impressive on the narrow ISL calendar while dealing with Bubbles.
how Proven: Thanks to the improvement of Mumbai City during the time of Des Buckingham, when there was a long opportunity to train, it can be expected that a much more Ferrando team will appear in the game against Gokulam. ATKMB has spent its last few weeks training intensively, even beating the national team in a friendly (Liston Colako’s goals against Kiyan Nasir 2-1).
As for Gokulam, they had their last meeting with another famous wrestling giant Calcutta. Despite 40,000+ hostile encounters in the stands, Gokulam Kerala defeated Mohammedan Sporting 2-1 on the final day of the I-League season to become the first club in Indian history to defend an NFL / I-League title. This is a club that is currently rewriting the history books, while ATK Mohun Bagan wants to “once again take their place at the top of the Indian football pyramid”.
Success on the continental stage is not a familiar feeling for the Indian side, but there have been promising shots, such as the Bengaluru FC run in the final of this tournament in 2016. Mumbai City opened a new path for Indian clubs with their AFC Champions. The league campaign last month, with two wins and seven points, finishing second in their group.
That should be the common goal of both sides as they strive for a deep win in the AFC Cup. The Bashundhara Kings և Maziya SC are now familiar enemies to ATK Mohun Bagan as the Indian side overtake the pair to top their group last season. The knockouts were a short-lived event for ATKMB, with finalist FC Nasaf handing them the 6-0 hammer that echoed Antonio Habas at the start of the ISL 2021-22 season.
At the same time, Gokulam is a continental rookie, this is their first time in the AFC Cup. The only international “success” of the club was the semi-final of the eight teams of the 2019 Sheikh Kamal International Club Cup in Bangladesh. The Bashundhara Kings lost 3-1 in the group stages at the time, and the GKFC was also successful when it came to ATK Mohun Bagan and his former characters in the Durand Cup. In the three I-League seasons in which both clubs played, Gokulam’s only victory came in the first match of the pair, with the winner of the 90th minute giving them a 2-1 victory.
Past results, however, are inconsistent, as ATK Mohun Bagan has finished the Indian Super League with a collection of all-star stars representing some of India’s best. Gokulam’s foreign team can hold on, but they relied on their academy products to reach the I-League title this season, which included an unprecedented 21-game unbeaten streak. No matter how much the opposite argument is made, the ISL side has more weapons at its disposal, it should start as a favorite, even if it is against the league champions.
However, as the previous Super Cup showed, football is played on the pitch, any budget gaps, influence, etc., lose their meaning. Gokulam enters this game against ATKMB with an advantage in a competitive game just days ago, or you can challenge the 2-1 victory to decide the fate of the league title against their opponents, can be taxed in many ways. ATK Mohun Bagan is hosting friendly matches for this tournament, if they are fresh, they may not be competitive.
Will the top champions of the last division win against the rich, unsuccessful giants of Indian football? As always, the answer will be on the field.
AFC Cup Group D represents the South Zone, with three straight entrances to India (Gokulam Kerala – I-League Champion), Bangladesh (Bashundhara Kings – Bangladesh Premier League Champion) և Maldives (Maziya SC – Dhivehi Premier League Champions). the first three ranking member associations. The fourth entry includes qualifying rounds where ATK Mohun Bagan (2020-21 Indian Super League regular season runner-up) sails past Sri Lanka’s Blue Star SC and Bangladesh’s Abahani Limited Dhaka to qualify for the group. Only group winners advance to the semi-finals of the Intermediate Zone, where they will face Group J winners (Eastern, Must CPK, Tainan City և Lee Man).
Gokulam Kerala vs ATK Mohun Bagan – AFC Cup D group match will start on Tuesday, May 18 at 16:30. It will be broadcast LIVE on Star Sports 3 and can be streamed on Hotstar.
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