Chapter 1: A lookback at the inaugural season of the Hero Indian Super League


The year 2014 was the birthmark of a new era of football in India. Bedazzled with glam, glory, and gloriousness, marked the inaugural season of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL). Hero ISL attracted talented international footballing names such as Robert Pires, Luis García, David James, Marco Materazzi, David Trezeguet, and Zico amongst others.

The inaugural season of the Hero ISL featured eight clubs, each playing fourteen matches in the regular season. The season started with Antonio Habas’ side ATK defeating Mumbai City FC and ended with them emerging victorious against the Kerala Blasters FC in a 1-0 win in the final.

We take a look at each team’s journey in their first season of the Hero Indian Super League:

  1. Atlético de Kolkata FC

Antonio Habas’ side were one of the famous franchises in the ISL, firing the first goal of Hero ISL. The side boasted a talented squad which lost only three games and finished in third position at the end of the league. They faced FC Goa in the semi-finals, a stalemate in both the legs, leading to penalty shootouts where Habas’ side scored all four whilst the Gaurs failed to convert two of their penalties. The side met Kerala Blasters FC in the finals where Mohammed Rafique - coming in as a substitute - broke the deadlock by scoring a stoppage-time winner, in what was his second Hero ISL match.

  1. Chennaiyin FC

The Marco Materazzi led side had a fantastic home record, losing just a single match to FC Goa. Their best game came against Mumbai City FC in a 5-1 win involving their marquee player, Elano scoring a brace. The Marina Machans finished on top of the table with twenty-three points - a point above second-placed FC Goa. They met Kerala Blasters in the semi-finals, losing to them on an away goal in the second leg with an aggregate score of 4-3. Although losing out on semis, they had something to cheer about as their key signing, Elano, won the Golden Boot netting eight goals in the season.

  1. Delhi Dynamos FC

Delhi Dynamos did not experience the best of starts as they were last in the points table until gameweek nine. Things turned around in the latter half of the campaign when they went on a five-match unbeaten run including three wins and two draws. However,  failing to qualify for the semi-finals. They finished the league in fifth position with eighteen points, a point below the semi-finalists, Kerala Blasters FC. Their star player, Alessandro Del Piero delivered substandard performances, scoring just one goal in ten appearances. They ended the season by winning the Fair Play award.

  1. FC Goa

The Gaurs led by the Brazilian footballer Zico started off on the wrong foot, losing four out of their first six matches. But FC Goa managed to make a strong comeback in the latter half of the campaign with five wins in their last eight matches. Their goalkeeper, Jan Šeda had a stellar performance as he kept seven clean sheets in fourteen matches, winning the Golden Glove that season. Their key player, Robert Pires looked out of touch, scoring just one goal out of eight appearances. The Gaurs finished second in the table with twenty-two points. They faced Antonio Habas’ side in the semis which resulted in a goalless draw across both the legs. Eventually, FC Goa lost 4-2 to ATK via penalty shootouts.

  1. Kerala Blasters FC

The Blasters didn’t start off well as they went winless in the first three games of the league. But the David James led side picked up the pace and qualified in the semi-finals after Ian Hume’s heroics in the second half of the tournament. Hume’s performances earned him the Golden Ball of the Tournament - awarded to the best player of the season. The Yellow Army finished fourth in the table with nineteen points. They faced the heavyweights, Chennaiyin FC in the semi-finals, whom they defeated 4-3 on aggregate. They lost the title to Antonio Habas’ side when Rafique scored the winning goal for them in stoppage time.

  1. Mumbai City FC

The Islanders had an underwhelming season as they finished seventh in the league table with sixteen points and failed to qualify for the semi-finals. The side which boasted of the likes of Freddie Ljungberg and Nikolas Anelka, had an abysmal away record, not winning a single away game. Their biggest victory came against FC Pune City, a 5-0 win highlighted by André Moritz’s hat-trick, the first-ever in Hero ISL history.

  1. NorthEast United FC

The Highlanders first season was the one to forget as they finished last in the table with fifteen points, failing to qualify for the semi-finals. The side managed only three wins out of the fourteen games played. The Ricky Hebert led side lacked chemistry and their key players couldn’t click well together.

  1. FC Pune City

The Stallions led by Italian coach Franco Colomba started on a high as they lost just two of their first seven games. Their latter part of the campaign saw more losses than goals scored. Following a horrendous run of fixtures, FC Pune city managed to scalp a 2-0 redemption win against rivals Mumbai as they lost 5-0 in their away game. They ended up sixth in the league table with sixteen points, failing to qualify for the semi-finals. However, their marquee signing, Kostas Katsouranis won Goal of the Season.

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