Football is definitely not the most popular sport in India. Historically, other sports activities such as cricket and badminton have a much higher number of followers and athletes; in these two disciplines the Indian national team often excels all over the world. On the other hand, India’s national football team is at the bottom of the 2019 FIFA world rankings, but hit its lowest point in 2015, being in the 173rd position in the ranking.
For sure, due to this lack of competitivity, the Indian teams are not recognized among the best in the world. Football is practiced only in some areas of the country and the main league is the so-called I-League. But which Indian team has achieved the best results ever in football?
Websites such as The Watford Observer have run through the deeds of some of the best Indian teams, highlighting the most important victories and some curiosities about their history.
Dempo Sports Club
According to statistics, the best Indian team of all time is Dempo S.C., based in Panaji. The team was founded in 1961 under the name of Clube Desportivo de Bicholim, but in 1966 it became Dempo Souza Sport Club; only two years later the team would become Dempo Sport Club. The club for seven years had kept a name of Portuguese origin due to the strong Lusitanian colonization of the state of Goa. Until 1998, the year in which the Indian football championship was created, Dempo participated in football competitions in Goa and won 13 state championships.
Dempo won the National Football League twice, in 2005 and 2007; in 2004 the Panajian team won the Federation Cup and in 2006 won the Durand Cup. In 2008 Dempo is the first team to win the I-League, the new Indian championship; the blue and white team will win the league two more times in 2010 in 2012. However in 2016, in December, the team withdrew from the I-League in protest against the AIFF (All India Football Federation) decision to restructure Indian football.
East Bengal Football Club
Due to Dempo’s withdrawal from the official competitions in 2016, the most titled team in India at the moment is the East Bengal Football Club. The club, counting a lot of supporters and coached by Mario Rivera Campesino, has won 3 National Football League, later called I-League, in its history, 8 Federations Cup 3 Indian Super Cup.
The club is the point of reference for the Bengal immigrants and has a bitter rivalry with Mohun Bagan, the other main team in Kolkata, West Bengal. The game between the two clubs is very much felt by the fans and is known as Kolkata Derby; it is considered the biggest rivalry in Asian football.
The East Bengal Football Club not only can reckon on the first men’s team, but is in all respects a multi-sport club, which also includes a B football team, a youth team, the women’s team, the cricket team and the athletics team.