Atlético de Kolkata (Bengali: অ্যাটলেটিকো দে কলকাতা) is an Indian Super League football franchise based in Kolkata, West Bengal. It was established on 7 May 2014 as the first ever Indian Super League team. The team is owned by Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt. Ltd. which consists of former Indian cricketer Sourav Ganguly, businessmen Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka, Utsav Parekh and Spanish club Atlético Madrid. The team’s name and colours come from its Spanish partner.
The team is managed by former Bolivia and Valencia manager Antonio López Habas and plays their home matches at the 68,000-capacity Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. The current marquee player is Portugalinternational forward Hélder Postiga and the captain is Spanish defender Josemi.
Atlético were the hosts and winners of the first match in the Indian Super League. They won the inaugural season, defeating the Kerala Blasters 1–0 in the final.
In early 2014, it was announced that the All India Football Federation, the national federation for football in India, and IMG-Reliance would be accepting bids for ownership of eight of nine selected cities for the upcoming Indian Super League, an eight-team franchise league modeled along the lines of the Indian Premier League cricket tournament. On 13 April 2014, it was announced that Sourav Ganguly, Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka, Utsav Parekh, and Spanish La Liga side Atletico Madrid had won the bidding for the Kolkata franchise. It turned out to be the most expensive franchise, being purchased for 18 crore. On 7 May 2014, the team was officially launched as Atlético de Kolkata.
On 7 July, the team’s jersey and logo were unveiled by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the Nabanna building, temporary headquarters of the state’s Secretariat. The logo features a hybrid Bengal tiger–phoenix, with the latter element being symbolic of perpetuity, due to the footballing heritage in Kolkata. Five stars above the crest symbolise the five owners of the club. The shield is striped with tigers’ stripes.
The team then signed their first ever player on 4 July 2014 when they signed former Real Madrid midfielder Borja Fernández. The team then went on to sign two more Spaniards: their first head coach, Antonio López Habas, and marquee player, former UEFA Champions League winner Luis García, on 8 July 2014.
The first Indian signing by the club took place in round one of the 2014 ISL Inaugural Domestic Draft in which Atlético de Kolkata selected Cavin Lobo, midfielder for the city’s I-League team East Bengal FC, with their pick. They were the biggest spenders in the draft with an expenditure of 3.91 crore, their biggest signing being Sanju Pradhan for 70 lakh. In the International Draft, Atlético de Kolkata selected seven players, four of whom Spaniards, including defender Josemi, a UEFA Champions League winner with Liverpool in 2005. On 6 September, the team bolstered their midfield with the acquisition of Mamunul Islam, captain of the Bangladesh national team, who stated that the move would help relations between the Bengali people of India and Bangladesh.
The club played their first ever match in their history on 12 October 2014 at home against Mumbai City FC in the opening Indian Super League match. Fikru Teferra scored the first goal in team and league history in the 27th minute as Atlético de Kolkata went on to win 3–0.
By finishing third in the league, the club qualified for the end-of-season play-offs, where they advanced via a penalty shootout past FC Goa in the semi-finals after a goalless draw. At the final against the Kerala Blasters at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai, Atlético won 1–0 with an added-time goal by Mohammed Rafique. At the end of season awards, García was named the Most Exciting Player.
On 5 June 2015, the team acquired Canadian international forward Iain Hume, whose five goals had helped Kerala to the final of the previous season. In the second season’s domestic draft, Atlético de Kolkata had the first pick, choosing Pune F.C. goalkeeper Amrinder Singh for a fee of 4.5 lakhs; their most expensive purchase was that of defender Augustin Fernandes for 26 lakhs. On 29 July, with García released due to his injury record, the team brought in Portugal international forward Hélder Postiga as their new marquee player; aged 32, he became the youngest such player in the league.
The 68,000-capacity (after renovation in 2014 prior to start of ISL) Salt Lake Stadium is the home ground of Atlético de Kolkata. The multi-purpose stadium, located in the Bidhannagar City part of Kolkata, is the second-largest stadium in the world. The record attendance at the stadium, and record attendance in Indian football history, was 131,000 which was set in 1997 during a match between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan in the Kolkata derby.
On 21 June 2014, it was announced that the Salt Lake Stadium would undergo a renovation in preparation for the 2014 season. According to co-owner Sourav Ganguly, the stadium is set to feature four more entry/exit gates, corporate boxes, and will have renovations done to the VIP enclosures and the dressing rooms. Atlético Madrid meanwhile said they would help install 25,000 bucket seats to the stadium.
The Kolkata Games and Sports Pvt. Ltd. is a consortium established to oversee the administration and operations of Atlético Kolkata of the Indian Super League. The consortium is made up of former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, businessmen Harshavardhan Neotia, Sanjiv Goenka, and Utsav Parekh, as well as Atlético Madrid of La Liga in Spain.
The club’s main sponsor is Indian telecommunications corporation Aircel, while its partners are Kolkata-based underwear brand Lux Cozi and insurance firm Apollo Munich.