Last Update: 18th Nov,2020 4:22PM
The seventh season of the Indian Super League (ISL) kicks off in Goa on Friday, with Kerala Blasters taking on ATK Mohun Bagan at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim.
In the six seasons so far, only three teams have won the ISL, with the erstwhile ATK FC being the most successful team, having won the title three times.
Alongside ATK, Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC are the other teams who have an ISL crown to their name.
In the 2019-20 season, apart from the champions, the ISL also awarded the league shield to the team that finished top of the league table. FC Goa became the first-ever recipients of the league shield, thereby also confirming their participation in the 2020-21 AFC Champions League. Goa will be the first Indian side to participate in the group stages of Asia’s premier club competition.
In this article, we take a look at the champions from each edition of the ISL since 2014.
#1 ATK – 2014
ATK, then Atletico de Kolkata, became the first ever winners of the ISL, under head coach Antonio Lopez Habas.
They had finished third in the points table at the end of the league stages, four points behind table-toppers Chennaiyin FC. In the semifinal against FC Goa, the two sides were unable to be separated after 210 minutes of action over two legs, including extra-time.
Andre Santos and Zohib Islam Amiri missed their penalties in the shootout for Goa, to send ATK through to the final against Kerala Blasters.
The final, played at Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium, was a a cagey affair,
and seemed set to be headed into extra-time, after Kerala Blasters had a few great chances saved by goalkeeper Apoula Edel Bete.
But in the 95th minute, ATK had a corner,
and Mohammed Rafique stepped up to win them the match, with a superb near-post header.
Spaniard Luis Garcia became the first captain to lift the ISL trophy.
#2 Chennaiyin FC – 2015
Chennaiyin FC had to endure heartbreak in the first ISL season,
when an extra-time goal from Stephen Pearson at the Marina Arena sent Kerala Blasters through at their expense.
However, Marco Materazzi’s side came roaring back the very next year to complete the unfinished business from 2014.
Halfway through the season, Chennaiyin were in danger of not qualifying for the knockouts. But eventually, John Stiven Mendoza stepped up in their last few games to inspire them through to the knockout stages.
#3 ATK – 2016
2016 was a peculiar year in the ISL, with the previous year’s finalists both finishing in the bottom two. Furthermore,
the top two teams from the league stages in 2016, Mumbai City FC and Delhi Dynamos, both lost their semifinal matches –
to ATK and Kerala Blasters respectively.
The final itself was a spectacle, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi, as the Kerala faithful thronged the stadium in large numbers hoping to see their side lift their first ISL crown.
They got off to a great start as well, as local boy Mohammed Rafi headed home from a corner to give the Blasters the lead.
However, they were pegged back soon after, as Henrique Sereno equalised for ATK. The game eventually went into a penalty shootout.
Iain Hume missed the first penalty in the shootout, but Debjit Majumder stepped up in goal for ATK to save a decisive penalty from Cedric Hengbart, after Elhadji Ndoye had also missed for Kerala Blasters.
Jewel Raja Shaikh scored the decisive penalty for ATK to make them two-time champions.
#4 Chennaiyin FC – 2017-18
This was the first year of an expanded ISL, with Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC joining the fold, alongside the eight existing teams.
Bengaluru were dominant in the league stages, amassing 40 points to finish ten points clear of Chennaiyin, who were second.
Both Chennaiyin and Bengaluru made the final, beating FC Goa and FC Pune City in their respective semifinals. The title clash between the two southern rivals took place at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru.
Sunil Chhetri gave Bengaluru the early lead, and they looked set to push on and claim their maiden ISL crowns,
but Chennaiyin roared back to silence the Kanteerava faithful.
Miku scored a late goal for Bengaluru to half Chennaiyin’s lead, but they held on to win their second ISL crown.
#5 Bengaluru FC – 2018-19
As in 2017-18, Bengaluru FC once again topped the ISL league stages in 2018-19,
but this time they only finished ahead of Goa because of their head-to-head record against Sergio Lobera’s side.
Goa had fond memories of playing at the Andheri Sports Complex, having beaten Mumbai City FC 5-1 in the first leg of the semifinal there.
Bengaluru went through to the final after overturning a 2-1 deficit from the firs tleg, to beat NorthEast United 4-2 on aggregate.
The final was a cagey affair, with chances at a premium. It seemed to be heading into a penalty shootout until local boy Rahul Bheke stepped up in his hometown for Bengaluru.
#6 ATK – 2019-20
Antonio Lopez Habas was re-appointed as head coach of ATK prior to the 2019-20 season, after the franchise endured two particularly disappointing seasons since they won it in 2016.
Chennaiyin FC also made the final,
after a spectacular mid-season turnaround following Owen Coyle’s arrival to replace John Gregory as the head-coach.
In the final, the more clinical team prevailed, as ATK took the big chances they had, while Chennaiyin didn’t.
Arindam Bhattacharya was named the man of the match in the final for a heroic performance between the sticks for ATK.
Javi Hernandez and Edu Garcia put ATK 2-0 up, before Nerijus Valskis halved Chennaiyin’s deficit to set up a grand-stand finish.