Calcutta Football League

The Calcutta Football League (CFL) is a men's professional state football league in West Bengal, India, organised by Indian Football Association. Due to sponsorship reasons, the league is officially known as SNU Calcutta Football League,[2][3] is the top football league in the state and the oldest football league in Asia.

Calcutta Football League
Calcutta Football League logo.png
Organising bodyIndian Football Association (West Bengal)
Founded1898; 124 years ago (1898)
Number of teams14 (Premier Division A)
approx. 160 (clubs and units)
Level on pyramid4–10
Promotion toGreen Arrow Up.svg I-League 2nd Division
Relegation toRed Arrow Down.svg Premier Division B
Domestic cup(s)IFA Shield
Current championsMohammedan (12th title)
Most championshipsEast Bengal (39 titles)[1]
TV partnersR Plus News
Aajkaal (online streaming)
Current: 2021–22 Calcutta Premier Division

Indian Football Association (IFA) conducts the CFL with more than 160 mostly Kolkata based clubs and units. Started in 1898, this league is the oldest football league in Asia and regarded as one of the oldest football competitions in the world.[4] CFL currently consists of a seven-tier pyramid system[4] and there are more than 8,500 directly registered players of IFA participating in CFL every year, making it one of the biggest leagues in the country.


Early years (1890s–1910s)Edit

In 1898, IFA introduced a two-tiered football league in Calcutta on the lines of English Football League in England and Wales. Until 1937, CFL was a major tournament with participation open to every team across the nation but after the establishment of AIFF, CFL became a regional competition.

The British Indian Army garrison stationed at Fort William played an instrumental role in shaping the Calcutta Football League by putting forth numerous teams alongside other European settlers. The Army teams won all but twelve of the titles until 1933. On eight of those twelve occasions the title was claimed by Calcutta and the rest by Dalhousie. Native teams were barred from participating for the first 15 seasons, and only clubs designated for civil servants, merchants, missionaries and other European nationalities made up the rest of the league, in a clearly designed exercise to exclude Indians of any religion.[5]

In 1914, IFA permitted only two native clubs- Mohun Bagan and Aryan, in the Second Division of CFL. Mohun Bagan had a successful campaign and earned promotion to the Premier Division in their debut season, whereas Aryan was promoted to the top division two years later. From 1917 to 1920, the Second Division was won by two other native clubs, namely Kumortuli Club (in 1917, 1918 and 1919) and Town Club (in 1920), but their promotions were denied due to the allowance of only two native clubs to play in each tier.[6][7]

Uprise of native dominance (1920s–1947)Edit

1921 saw the rise of East Bengal who began their CFL journey in the Second Division in place of Tajhat Club who had withdrawn from the league. Three years later East Bengal finished the Second Division as the joint-winners with Cameroons B and since Cameroons A was in the Premier Division, East Bengal got the opportunity for promotion. As two native clubs were already playing in the Premier Division, East Bengal's promotion was to be rejected as well. At this, the club called for amendments and in the following General Meeting of IFA, the nine British teams conveyed their approval, while Mohun Bagan and Aryan opposed it. Eventually the rule regulating the promotion of native clubs was abolished on the consent of the majority.[7]

Mohammedan SC, the first native Indian team to win the league.[8]

Even though the native clubs got more opportunities yet the British dominance continued till 1933. In 1934, Mohammedan won the title in their debut season and became the first native club to win CFL.[9] The club went on to win the league six out of seven times from 1935 to 1941, with 1939 being the only exception when they didn't participate and Mohun Bagan went away with their first league title that year.[6][10]

Post-independence era (1947–1970s)Edit

In the post-independence years, many other state leagues were introduced and various clubs from other states rose in glory, but CFL was still considered to be one of the top leagues in the nation and provided innumerable young talents. The league matches were mostly played in monsoon and matches involving the Big Three of Calcutta (Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan) regularly attracted more than 30,000 spectators.[6] From 1934 to 1981, Eastern Railway was the only club outside of the Big Three to win the title in 1958.

The CFL had a long history of crowd trouble, and the burgeoning fanfare exacerbated it. The rapidly increasing off-the-field rivalry between the respective fans of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal saw one of the darkest days of Indian football when 16 fans lost their lives because of a stampede and rioting during a Kolkata Derby in CFL on 16 August 1980 in Eden Gardens. Since then the day is celebrated every year as the Football Lover's Day.[11][6]

Years of obscurity (1980s–2000s)Edit

In the 80s and 90s, the league caught many eyes with the rivalry between the two of Indian football's finest tacticians— P.K. Banerjee and Amal Dutta, besides the decades old rivalry among the Big Three.[12][6]

Due to the rise in financial demands and steady modernisation of the sport, the league became dominated by the Big Three clubs as the smaller clubs struggled to keep up with their economy. The league saw the beginning of a major downfall with the introduction of NFL (now I-League). The importance of regional competitions decreased as all the top clubs in the state were racing for the national honours. From the later 20th century, Mohammedan eventually lost its stronghold and, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal became the only dominant teams in the league. In the new century, the IFA revamped the competition into a six-tier competition with the seventh tier, called the nursery league, reserved for sub-junior teams. The top tier, Premier Division, was also divided into two groups so as to include more teams.

Resurgence (2010s–present)Edit

Starting in 2010, East Bengal won a record eight consecutive titles until their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan break the streak in 2018. In 2018 the league's popularity had a sudden upsurge and recorded more than 15,000 spectators even in matches involving small clubs. Most news reports in the local media reverberated the popular feeling— "The passion of the 70s is back." Small clubs like Peerless and George Telegraph introduced some of the foreign talents that later went on to become big names in the country.[6]

In 2019, Peerless clinched the honour and became the second team outside the Big Three after Eastern Railway to win the league since 1934.[13] Since the independence of India, the CFL was never cancelled until 2020 when after a lengthy delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic it was decided to cancel the then CFL season, with the next season due to start later in 2021.[14]

Division structureEdit

With the season starting from 2015, the clubs/units were redistributed among the first six divisions and the last division was reserved only for youth teams.[4]

Tier Division
(Level 4 on Indian Football Pyramid)
Premier Division A

↓relegate 2

Premier Division B

↑promote 2 ↓relegate 2

(Level 5 on Indian Football Pyramid)
First Division

↑promote 2 ↓relegate 2

(Level 6 on Indian Football Pyramid)
Second Division

↑promote 2 ↓relegate 2

(Level 7 on Indian Football Pyramid)
Third Division

↑promote 2 ↓relegate 2

(Level 8 on Indian Football Pyramid)
Fourth Division

↑promote 2 ↓relegate 2

(Level 9 on Indian Football Pyramid)
Fifth Division Group A

↑promote 2

(Level 10 on Indian Football Pyramid)
Fifth Division Group B

(Age group: 13 to 16)

Usually 12 teams participate in the Premier Division A and compete in a single-leg round'robin tournament. The top two teams are promoted to the I-League 2nd Division where as the bottom two teams are relegated to Premier Division B. In the Premier Division B, usually 10 teams are involved and the tournament is divided into two phases. In the first phase, all the teams play in a single-leg round-robin tournament. In the second phase, the teams are split into two groups (A and B) of top teams and bottom teams respectively. The teams in Group A compete for promotion to the Premier Division A, while those in Group B compete to avoid relegation to the First Division.

Apart from the Premier Division A, all the other divisions are competed by more than 20 teams, the format of the tournaments in the lower divisions aren't always the same. The top teams in respective divisions are promoted to the division higher to it and the bottom teams get relegated to the lower one.

The most successful clubs participating in the top-tier of the league includes East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan. However, since 1982, the league has been won by either East Bengal or Mohun Bagan until 2019 when Peerless made history by winning their maiden league title and becoming the first team outside the Kolkata's Big Three to win the league after a gap of 61 years since Eastern Railway had won.[15]


League Title SponsorEdit

Period Sponsor Tournament Name
1898–2004 None Calcutta Football League
2005–2014 Sahara India Sahara Calcutta Premier League
2015–2020 Officer's Choice Blue Officer's Choice Blue Calcutta Premier League
2021–present Sister Nivedita University SNU Calcutta Football League[2]

Media coverageEdit

Period TV Channel
1898–2004 None

Tara Newz


Kolkata TV


Zee 24 Ghanta


ABP Ananda


News Time


Zee 24 Ghanta


Jalsha Movies


News18 Bangla


Kolkata TV


Sadhna News


R Plus News

Premier Division results by yearEdit

Year Winner Note
1898   Gloucestershire Regiment
1899   Calcutta
1900   Royal Irish Rifles
1901   Royal Irish Rifles
1902   King's Own Scottish Borderers
1903   93rd Highlanders
1904   King's Own Regiment
1905   King's Own Regiment
1906   Highlander Light Infantry
1907   Calcutta
1908   Gordon Light Infantry
1909   Gordon Light Infantry
1910   Dalhousie
1911   70th Company RGA
1912   Black Watch
1913   Black Watch
1914   91st Highlanders
1915   10th Middlesex Regiment
1916   Calcutta
1917   Royal Lincolnshire Regiment
1918   Calcutta
1919   12th Special Service Battalion
1920   Calcutta
1921   Dalhousie
1922   Calcutta
1923   Calcutta
1924   Cameron Highlanders
1925   Calcutta
1926   North Staffordshire Regiment
1927   North Staffordshire Regiment
1928   Dalhousie
1929   Dalhousie
1930 None Cancelled due to nationwide Satyagraha movement.[16]
1931   Durham Light Infantry
1932   Durham Light Infantry
1933   Durham Light Infantry
1934   Mohammedan First native club to win the league.[10]
1935   Mohammedan
1936   Mohammedan
1937   Mohammedan
1938   Mohammedan
1939   Mohun Bagan
1940   Mohammedan
1941   Mohammedan
1942   East Bengal
1943   Mohun Bagan
1944   Mohun Bagan
1945   East Bengal
1946   East Bengal
1947 None Cancelled due to Indian independence movement.
1948 Mohammedan
1949 East Bengal
1950 East Bengal
1951 Mohun Bagan
1952 East Bengal
1953 None Abandoned midway due to riots in Calcutta.[17]
1954 Mohun Bagan
1955 Mohun Bagan
1956 Mohun Bagan
1957 Mohammedan
1958 Eastern Railway
1959 Mohun Bagan
1960 Mohun Bagan
1961 East Bengal
1962 Mohun Bagan
1963 Mohun Bagan
1964 Mohun Bagan
1965 Mohun Bagan
1966 East Bengal
1967 Mohammedan
1968 None Mohun Bagan had won the league but due to an injunction from the Calcutta High Court, the league was declared null and void.[18]
1969 Mohun Bagan
1970 East Bengal
1971 East Bengal
1972 East Bengal East Bengal didn't concede a goal in the tournament.[19]
1973 East Bengal
1974 East Bengal
1975 East Bengal
1976 Mohun Bagan
1977 East Bengal East Bengal had won every match in the tournament.[20]
1978 Mohun Bagan
1979 Mohun Bagan
1980 None Called off due to stampede and riot in Eden Gardens on August 16.[11]
1981 Mohammedan
1982 East Bengal
1983 Mohun Bagan
1984 Mohun Bagan
1985 East Bengal
1986 Mohun Bagan
1987 East Bengal
1988 East Bengal
1989 East Bengal
1990 Mohun Bagan
1991 East Bengal
1992 Mohun Bagan
1993 East Bengal
1994 Mohun Bagan
1995 East Bengal
1996 East Bengal
1997 Mohun Bagan
1998 East Bengal
1999 East Bengal
2000 East Bengal
2001 Mohun Bagan
2002 East Bengal
2003 East Bengal
2004 East Bengal
2005 Mohun Bagan
2006 East Bengal
2007 Mohun Bagan
2008 Mohun Bagan
2009 Mohun Bagan
2010 East Bengal
2011 East Bengal
2012 East Bengal
2013 East Bengal
2014 East Bengal
2015 East Bengal
2016 East Bengal East Bengal had won every match in the tournament.
2017 East Bengal
2018 Mohun Bagan
2019 Peerless
2020 None Cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic in India.
2021 Mohammedan
Source: IFA (WB)

List of Premier Division winnersEdit

The list only contains the names of the teams that have won the highest division of the Calcutta Football League more than once.[9]

Club Titles Winning years
East Bengal 39 1942, 1945, 1946, 1949, 1950, 1952, 1961, 1966, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1977, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
Mohun Bagan 30 1939, 1943, 1944, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1969, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1997, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2018
Mohammedan 12 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1940, 1941, 1948, 1957, 1967, 1981, 2021
Calcutta 8 1899, 1907, 1916, 1918, 1920, 1922, 1923, 1925
Dalhousie 4 1910, 1921, 1928, 1929
  Durham Light Infantry 3 1931, 1932, 1933
  Black Watch 2 1912, 1913
  Gordon Light Infantry 1908, 1909
  King's Own Regiment 1904, 1905
  North Staffordshire Regiment 1926, 1927
  Royal Irish Rifles 1900, 1901

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mukhopadhyay, Shoubhik (10 September 2015). "East Bengal & Calcutta Football League: A Sublime Romantic Saga - Hero I-League". I-League. Archived from the original on 25 September 2019. Retrieved 25 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b "No clarity on Kolkata derby as Asia's oldest league starts on Tuesday". Hindustan Times. 16 August 2021. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  3. ^ "Facebook". Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  4. ^ a b c "Calcutta Football League". IFA. Archived from the original on 15 February 2009. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  5. ^ Andrew Flint (11 November 2015). "A Tale of One City: Kolkata". These Football Times. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "How Asia's oldest football league made its mark". Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Kingfisher East Bengal FC|Legacy-History". 18 August 2012. Archived from the original on 18 August 2012. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  8. ^ "ব্রিটিশকে হারিয়ে ডুরান্ড জয়ী, পাকিস্তানকেও গোল দিয়ে চিরকালীন নজির মহামেডানের". (in Bengali). 1 September 2021. Archived from the original on 2 March 2022. Retrieved 2 March 2022.
  9. ^ a b "List of Calcutta Football League Champions". IFA. Retrieved 3 July 2021.
  10. ^ a b "Indian football: The tale of the unbeatable Mohammedan Sporting side of 1930s |". Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  11. ^ a b "When a derby turned deadly in Eden Gardens in 1980". The Indian Express. 16 August 2020. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  12. ^ Sengupta, Somnath (4 July 2011). "Tactical Evolution of Indian Football (Part Three) : PK Banerjee -..." Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  13. ^ Sharma, Amitabha Das. "Peerless wins Calcutta Football League title as East Bengal presents a 'no-show'". Sportstar. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  14. ^ "No Calcutta Football League This Season, Decide Premier Division Clubs". Indian Football Association (West Bengal). 25 February 2021. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  15. ^ "".
  16. ^ "History by Decade". Mohun Bagan Athletic Club. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  17. ^ "Fare Hike and Urban Protest". Economic and Political Weekly: 7–8. 5 June 2015.
  18. ^ "Indian football: Instances when the Kolkata derby got abandoned |". Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  19. ^ "India - List of Calcutta/Kolkata League Champions". Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  20. ^ www.KolkataFootball.Com. "indian football news latest| news|live news indian football tournaments|indian football live". Retrieved 26 February 2021.

External linksEdit