Hyderabad FC became the latest ISL winners as they defeated Kerala Blasters 3-1 on penalties after the ISL 2021-22 final remained 1-1 after extra time.
Inaugurated in 2014, there have been five ISL winners in the last eight seasons. And the league has since expanded and gone on to become the top-tier league of Indian football.
While the success of the Indian Premier League (IPL) led to the emergence of the Premier Badminton League (PBL), Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), Indian Super League (ISL), few could come close to IPL’s success like the ISL.
ISL Winners list: From every season
|ISL seasons||Winners||Runner-up||ISL final score|
|2021-22||Hyderabad FC||Kerala Blasters||1-1 (3-1) penalty shootout|
|2020-21||Mumbai City FC||ATK Mohun Bagan||2-1|
|2018-19||Bengaluru FC||FC Goa||1-0|
|2017-18||Chennaiyin FC||Bengaluru FC||3-2|
|2016||Atlético de Kolkata||Kerala Blasters||1-1 (4-3) penalty shootout|
|2015||Chennaiyin FC||FC Goa||3-2|
|2014||Atlético de Kolkata||Kerala Blasters||1-0|
The Indian Super League was tasked with improving the footballing scene in the country, both in terms of talent and popularity. Hence, the initial few seasons of ISL saw players and head coaches like Marco Materazzi, Nicolas Anelka, Zico, David James and more gracing the Indian soil.
Apart from the four different ISL winners, the league has other teams like Kerala Blasters, Northeast United, ATK Mohun Bagan and more, who have never won the league but are hugely followed across the country as well, thereby going on to show how loved the sport has always been in India.
The journey of the Indian Super League has seen joy and heartbreak go hand in hand for the past seven years, with the bragging rights shifting bases now and then. The ISL has kept a league cum knockout format design, where the team finishing at the top in the league table wins the League Winners Shield. However, the Indian Super League trophy sees the top four teams fighting it out in the playoffs.
ISL winners 2014: Atlético de Kolkata
The inaugural season of the Indian Super League saw its most famous franchise Atletico de Kolkata lift the trophy. With former cricket team captain Sourav Ganguly a co-owner of the team, and Spanish maestro Luis Garcia being their marquee player that season, Kolkata rode high on coach Antonio Lopez Habas’ tactical fluidity to lift the first title. Their final match against Kerala Blasters, co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar – saw Indian midfielder Mohammed Rafique scoring the solitary goal for Atletico de Kolkata as the first-ever ISL winners kicked off a new craze in Indian football history. Interestingly, Rafique was the only substitute Habas had used in that final game at Mumbai’s DY Patil Stadium, where the Indian played only his second ISL match in that first season.
2015 ISL Winner: Chennaiyin FC
The Indian Super League was expected to be a massive hit next season in 2015, given how the fans received the inaugural season. The arrival of Indian football fan favourite Sunil Chettri further increased viewership. However, this time, Kolkata couldn’t defend their title, despite making it to the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The honours went to Chennaiyin FC, and it was hardly surprising. The Marina machans had finished atop the ISL points table in the inaugural season before missing the final spot following a 4-3 loss to Kerala in a closely fought two-legged encounter. However, with Italian World Cup winner Marco Materazzi becoming the new head coach this time, the team got the much-needed push to go all the way and win their first ISL title. Columbian striker Steven Mendoza scored the winning goal against FC Goa as Chennaiyin FC won the final 3-2 at the Fatorda Stadium.
2016 ISL Winner: Atlético de Kolkata
With Atletico de Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC winning the first two Indian Super League titles and, more importantly, dominating the league throughout the seasons, other clubs like Mumbai City FC, Delhi Dynamos, FC Pune City and others buckled up in the 2016 season. The third season of the Indian Super League saw former Chelsea star Florent Malouda, former Manchester United and Atletico Madrid’s Uruguayan striker Diego Forlán, and former Liverpool defender John Arne Riise gracing the Indian football competition to enforce a solid contest. However, while their reinforcements saw Mumbai finish the league stages at the top of the points table, their run ended in the semi-final before Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters met in the final again. The ISL 2016 final in Kochi had seen a record 54,000 plus crowd, who witnessed the first penalty shootout of an ISL finale after the match ended 1-1 in added time. Eventually, Kolkata were the crowned champions after winning 4-3 on a penalty shootout.
2017-18 ISL Winner: Chennaiyin FC
The 2017-18 Indian Super League season was historic for multiple reasons. Firstly, the league saw two new teams – Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC – joining the fray to expand from eight teams to ten teams. This meant more competition for the top four spots and a longer season, while the number of matches in a season increased from 61 to 95. Secondly, and more importantly, the ISL got official recognition from the Asian Football Confederation, meaning that the league now had a play-off slot available in the prestigious AFC Cup tournament. The new regime of the Indian Super League also saw a shift in power dynamics from Atletico de Kolkata to newly joined Bengaluru FC. Led by Miku and Sunil Chhetri, the team finished first in the league phase in their very first ISL season. However, their dream of an ISL trophy had to wait as Chennaiyin FC, with head coach John Gregory at the helm, had other plans. The former Aston Villa coach arrived at Bangalore’s Sree Kanteerava Stadium as the second-favourite but stunning the hosts 3-2 in the final to win Chennaiyin FC their second ISL title.
2018-19 ISL Winner: Bengaluru FC
An agonizing heartbreak in the last season saw Bengaluru FC coming to the 2018-19 Indian Super League season more prepared than ever. With Carles Cuadrat becoming the head coach of the side this time, the Blues looked more united than ever, and it was evident in their performances. Though Eelco Schattorie’s Northeast United and Sergio Lobera’s FC Goa gave real competition to Bengaluru FC, it didn’t stop Sunil Chhetri and Co from ending the league stages as the table toppers. Jorge Costa’s physical football had also provided massive attacking firepower to Mumbai City FC as they had reached the playoff stages. Still, Bengaluru FC were just too good for any of them. The ISL 2018-19 final saw Bengaluru taking on Goa, and after 117 minutes of gruelling football, Bengaluru FC’s Rahul Bheke scored the solitary goal of the match to win BFC their first ISL champion title.
2019-20 ISL Winner: ATK
The 2019-20 Indian Super League season saw a historic decision going their way. With the ISL gaining more popularity than ever, the India Football Federation eventually pushed AFC to make I-League the second-tier football league in the country amid fans’ massive furore, as this meant that the ISL league winner would now get an AFC Champions League spot. ISL gaining top tier football league status in India coincided with Team Kolkata – now ATK – investing in the squad again. After spending the last two disappointing seasons as a mid-table club, where they didn’t reach the play-offs even once, the management decided to bring reinforcements in the form of David Williams and Roy Krishna from the A-league. Not only that, but ATK also brought in old title-winning coach Antonio Lopez Habas.
The outcome came in the same season with Roy Krishna and David Williams scoring crucial goals in the play-offs to lead the team to the title. FC Goa had finished the league at the top and were awarded the League Winners Shield before Chennaiyin FC defeated them 6-5 on aggregate in the semi-finals. ATK reached the final by beating Bengaluru FC before overcoming Chennaiyin FC’s challenge 3-1 at the Goa’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. This title saw the Kolkata franchise become the first club to win the ISL thrice.
2020-21 ISL Winner: Mumbai City FC
The Indian Super League had finally arrived in the 2020-21 season. Not only did the league see oldest Indian football clubs Mohun Bagan (now merged with ATK to form ATK Mohun Bagan) and SC East Bengal joining the league to expand it to eleven teams, but ISL also saw the billionaire City Football Group investing in Mumbai City FC to become majority owners. Consequently, Mumbai City FC roped in proven ISL talents like Hugo Boumous, Ahmed Jahouh, Mourtada Fall and more to assemble a title-winning squad. Played behind closed doors in Goa due to the pandemic, a rechristened ATK Mohun Bagan team remained MFC’s biggest and only rival as the two teams dominated ISL 2020-21 throughout the league stages well as the play-offs. However, Sergio Lobera’s men had the last laugh after they defeated ATK Mohun Bagan 2-1, courtesy of a late winner by Bipin Singh at the Fatorda Stadium. Mumbai City FC didn’t only get their maiden title but also sealed a place in the AFC Champions League by becoming the ISL league winners to win the League Winners Shield.
2021-22 ISL Winner: Hyderabad FC
The ISL 2021-22 season was the campaign of the underdogs with Jamshedpur FC winning ISL Winners Shield and Hyderabad FC finishing second in the league stages. The other two teams reaching the playoff stages were Kerala Blasters and ATK Mohun Bagan. The Nizams had been in stupendous form throughout the season as they defeated a star-studded ATKMB side 3-2 in the semi-final before beating Kerala Blasters in the ISL final.