I-League set to return to the historic Cooperage Stadium

The historic Cooperage Stadium, home to the Western India Football Association, the governing body of football in Maharashtra is set to host two I-League matches on February 17th and 28th, 2020.

No I-League games have taken place in Mumbai since 2017. Defunct Mumbai FC was the last team to play an I-League game against East Bengal where they went down by 4 goals.

AIFF Developmental side, Indian Arrows, have chosen the Stadium close to the iconic Gateway of India, Mumbai for two games. They will play against the defending champions Chennai City and the Kolkata giants East Bengal. Former champions Chennai City will lock horns against Indian Arrows on the 28th of February. Ironically, East Bengal will be playing the first match on 17th of February. This comes after the last match played in the Cooperage in 2017. Since then, the 5000+ capacitor stadium went debarred from the I-League.

Commenting on the news, Mr Souter Vaz, Hon. General Secretary of WIFA and Executive Committee Member of the I-League, said, “I’m elated to share the news that the Indian Arrows will be playing at Cooperage. Hosting I-League matches is a matter of pride and I expect huge footfall on the matchdays”

Former Indian team goalkeeper and the CEO of the Western India Football Association, Mr Henry Menezes lauded the Cooperage as a special place for Indian football. “Back in the time, Maharashtra used to have several I-League 1st & 2nd, Division teams. Teams like Mahindra United, Air India, Bharat FC, Pune FC, BMFC, Kenkre, PIFA, Dodsal Mumbai Tigers, DSK used to take part in the league” quipped the Shiv Chhatrapati Awardee.

The Cooperage was the home ground for Mahindra United for decades. Mahindra was crowned champions of the National Football League for the first time in the club’s history in the 2005–06 season with two games to spare. They followed it up by beating their arch-rivals, Air India for the first time in the season. They are also two-time winners of the Federation Cup, having won the title in 2003 and 2005. The win in 2005 ensured that Mahindra became the first club in the history of Indian football to win the Federation Cup and National Football League double in the same season.

Its feels really good to hear that I league is coming back to Mumbai i.e. Cooperage stadium. Lot of early days memory will get refreshed. A new experience and motivation for all the upcoming players. Hope the promotion of the match and the timing would be appropriate so that lots of people can come and witness the match and feel the atmosphere.

– Hekmat Singh, Former Mahindra United and current Mumbai Custom defender

Mr Menezes explained why Cooperage was excluded for Mahindra United to play their home games in the AFC Cup. “When the AFC Club Licensing Criteria was enforced on to clubs and venues, Cooperage did not fulfil the AFC licensing criteria for venues and had to take a break to rebuild a refurbished Cooperage. I remember Mahindras had to play off from Goa & Delhi when they qualified for the AFC Cup in 2007”

Linekar Machado, an astute performer for the Income Tax team, which plies their trade in the MDFA Elite Division says that he loved to see Mahindra United play at the Cooperage. Similarly, Steven Dias, Asst Coach Jamshedpur FC and a former Indian Footballer claimed Mahindra United’s title-winning campaign back in 2006 to be one of his most fond memories.

My most memorable game at cooperage was between Air India and FC Kochin which Air India won 1-0. FC Kochin had star Players like IM Vijayan, Jo Paul Ancheri, Raman Vijayan & Satyan and were the favorites.

– Shyam Sawant, KSA Head Coach

Steven also talked about his time as a professional footballer while he was playing for Mumbai FC. “I concluded my professional playing career at Mumbai FC. So many lovely memories, I don’t know where to start from. I can never forget the Mumbai FC fan club, ‘Yellow Brigade’. The way they used to come in large numbers at the Cooperage Stadium and support us till the last whistle of the game was commendable. I’ve never seen fans like them anywhere in my entire football career. So yes, I miss my football as a player because of the love showered upon me by the fans”

Yellow Brigade – the Mumbai FC fan club had managed to create some exceptionally memorable nights at Cooperage

The Cooperage has had a rich history of being home to some of the substantial fixtures of Indian football. So, mark your calendars, as the Cooperage now gears up to host the Hero I-League after two long years.

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