All eyes are focused on ATK this season. With a squad that has plenty of big names and head-turners, they could so easily turn out to be the biggest attractions in the Hero Indian Super League.
The two-time champions are leaving no stone unturned to add a record third title, but it’s their work with youth development that could provide them with the tastiest fruits.
Last season, ATK enrolled a youth team in the Calcutta Football League, West Bengal’s professional league and one of the oldest competitions in the continent.
There are no shortcuts to success and ATK are committed to promoting their young talent through these competitions. The ATK team taking part in the Calcutta Football League started out in the fourth tier of the competition and have been climbing up the rungs in their bid to seal a spot in the Premier Division ‘A’.
The ATK youth team remained unbeaten throughout the Calcutta Division Two to be crowned champions last season and are now fighting it out in Division One. If they keep up their excellent form, they’ll soon join the big teams from the region.
In the preliminary round, ATK topped the table, scoring an incredible league-high 26 goals, conceding just six and winning nine out of 11 matches.
Hard work and commitment will surely deliver success, and if ATK get everything right, they will eventually climb up the ladder to play in the top division of the local league that has Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting.
There is so much of history in Kolkata and the Calcutta Football League. East Bengal, for example, have won the CFL 39 times and recently celebrated their centenary year. Their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan have won the trophy 30 times and Mohammedan Sporting are not too far behind with 11 memorable triumphs.
“The aim is to face the big guns in two seasons’ time. We are looking to make a hat-trick of promotions next season,” said ATK reserve team head coach Deggie Cardozo.
Cardozo rejected a similar offer from hometown club FC Goa and arrived in Kolkata to take up the challenge. “I came out of my comfort zone and what satisfies me more that I am helping the youngsters create a path into the senior team. This season, coach Antonio Lopez Habas has selected three reserve team players in the first-team squad. I am happy that Sumit Rathi, Anil Chawan and Lara have made it to where they belong and look forward to see them contribute to the success of ATK,” he added.
Five-year-old ATK has started their journey on the right track, and in a region that holds football dear, the club’s approach and commitment towards the game are sure to pay dividends.