National Football League (India)

The National Football League (commonly known as the NFL) was an association football league competition in India between 1996 and 2007 which was organised into three divisions. The league is now known as the I-League and continues with that name. The Premier Division of the league was first introduced in 1996, though the country already had a long history in the sport thanks to the likes of the IFA Shield and the Federation Cup. In fact, the Santosh Trophy (started in 1941) was the top football competition in the country before the then National Football League started.[1][2]

National Football League
Folded2007 (rechristened as I-League)
Country India
Divisions1 (1996)
2 (1997–2005)
3 (2006-2007)
Number of teams10-12
Level on pyramid1 (1996-2007)
Domestic cup(s)Federation Cup
Indian Super Cup
International cup(s)Asian Club Championship
Last championsDempo S.C.
Most championshipsMohun Bagan A.C.
East Bengal Club
(3 titles each)

A Second Division was added to the league in 1997, as Football in India grew to challenge cricket for the title of India's most popular sport. Between the divisions each year two teams were relegated and two teams were promoted. By 2006 a Third Division was added but that did not matter as by this time this would be the last year for the NFL; it was replaced in 2007 by the I-League which focuses on completely turning Indian football into a professional sport.


Period Sponsor Tournament Name
1996-98 Philips National Football League
1998-01 Coca-Cola National Football League
2001-02 Tata National Football League
2002-03 ONGC National Football League

List of Champions

Year Champions
(number of titles)
Runners-up Third place Top goalscorer Goals
1996–97 JCT FC (1) Churchill Brothers S.C. Kingfisher East Bengal FC Baichung Bhutia 14
1997–98 Mohun Bagan AC (1) Kingfisher East Bengal FC Salgaocar SC Raman Vijayan 10
1998–99 Salgaocar SC (1) Kingfisher East Bengal FC Churchill Brothers S.C. Philip Mensa 11
1999–2000 Mohun Bagan AC (2) Churchill Brothers S.C. Salgaocar SC Igor Shkvyrin 11
2000–01 Kingfisher East Bengal FC (1) Mohun Bagan AC Churchill Brothers SC Jose Barreto 14
2001–02 Mohun Bagan AC (3) Churchill Brothers S.C. Vasco SC Yusif Yakubu 18
2002–03 Kingfisher East Bengal FC (2) Salgaocar SC Vasco SC Yusif Yakubu 21
2003–04 Kingfisher East Bengal FC (3) Dempo SC Mahindra United Cristiano Junior 15
2004–05 Dempo SC (1) Sporting Clube de Goa Kingfisher East Bengal FC Dudu Omagbemi 21
2005–06 Mahindra United (1) Kingfisher East Bengal FC Mohun Bagan AC Ranti Martins 13
2006–07 Dempo SC (2) JCT FC Mahindra United Ranti Martins
Odafe Okolie

All-time NFL member clubs

Original 12 Clubs

Other First Division Clubs

In order of their promotion to the First Division.


  • Sharma, Amitabha Das (8 November 2017). "The decline of I-League". Sportstar. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
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