JCT Mills FC: The Lost Gem of Indian Football

With a season that has seen the Indian National Team win the Intercontinental Cup and secure a ranking of #101, the future of Indian Football seems bright today. A lot of this success can be credited to the ISL, other leagues, and grassroots development.

However, there is one more factor that has helped in the growth of Indian Football. And that is the foundation on which it has been built. If one goes through history, India has had many iconic football clubs that have produced some of the best talents in the country.

Today in this article, we will look at one such club named JCT Mills FC. An iconic team from Phagwara, JCT FC has been home to some of the best players in the world. Here is a brief about the club and what happened to it:

History of JCT Mills FC

In a nation where cricket is treated like a religion, thinking about growing the sport of football can often get you questioned. As a matter of fact, it can even cause you to lose support from your loved one. But none of this mattered to Mr. Samir Thapar.

In 1971, 12 years before India could win the historic 1983 Cricket World Cup, Thapar founded JCT Mills FC. With a talented bunch of local players from Punjab, JCT FC soon became a team many were scared of.

Speaking about the origins of JCT Football Club, founder Samir Thapar on the club’s website wrote, “ It was the year of 1971 that the foundations of JCT Football Team were laid. Those were years of great hope as the young nation consolidated its democratic traditions and focused on nation-building. With a value system that encouraged education over sports as a career, we at JCT recognized that sports too needed its due encouragement if we have to develop a well-balanced society.”

Image from jctfootball.com

While the vision of JCT Mills FC was indeed laid on strong foundations, their performance on the pitch was a testament to the same. Along with the late and great coach G.S Virk, JCT FC became a household name in Indian football.

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Achievements of JCT Mills FC

Along with local talents who can promote the sport among the community, a club also needs talented players who have experience if they are to win anything substantial. This is something JCT FC realized early in their career.

The year 1992 saw Indian Football legend Sukhvinder Singh take over as JCT coach. Under the former Indian national, the club did not only experience a lot of success but also had some of the biggest names playing for them.

Sunil Chhetri in JCT colors.
Image from jctfootball.com

The likes of I.M. Vijayan, Bhaichung Bhutia, Jo Paul Anchery, Stephen Abarowei, Carlton Anthony Chapman, and Deepak Mondal all played for the club in those years. It was evident that JCT had a lot of talent because the club kept winning title after title.

Some of the prestigious titles JCT won are:

  • National Football League (1)
  • Punjab State Super Football League (9)
  • Federation Cup (2)
  • Durand Cup (5)
  • IFA Shield (1)
  • Rovers Cup (1)

The success JCT Mills had in the national and international circuit felt unparalleled. Even the players at JCT went on to win big individually. I.M. Vijayan won the coveted Arjuna Award in 2003 while being a member of JCT.

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Partnership with Wolverhampton Football Club

The mid-2000s saw a growing trend in Indian football where many clubs from India signed deals with European football clubs. Everyone had a common agenda. And that was the growth of Indian football.

Taking advantage of the same, JCT too signed a partnership with the English team Wolverhampton Football Club, popularly known as Wolves. The aim was to share knowledge. From a cultural point of view, this deal made a lot of sense considering the Punjabi population in Wolverhampton.

In 2011, JCT was visited by two players from the Wolves Academy. Every Indian football fan was excited by this development, but the excitement did not last long as a dark cloud hovered above the Indian club.  

Disbandment of the club

A few months after the visit from the Wolves Academy, Indian football was treated to a piece of terrible news. After 40 years of actively participating in some of India’s biggest leagues, JCT Mills FC decided to call it a day.

Initially, the reason behind the club’s disbanding was not clear. However, later in a statement, the club mentioned that lack of exposure forced them towards this step. The statement from the club read:

Today football teams worldwide have become self-sustaining enterprises for which high exposure is needed to build viewership and spectators in the stadium. JCT won the inaugural national league in 1996, where there was high-quality TV exposure and widespread public interest. But since then the league has had negligible exposure and the teams have been going almost unnoticed… CT Limited, being a corporate, needs to justify to its stakeholders the effort vs visibility of the football team.”

The disbanding of JCT Mills FC was indeed a dark moment for Indian football. After all, the country was losing one of its most iconic clubs which had also contributed to the rise of some of the best talents India had produced.

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The current state of JCT Mills FC

As of now, JCT Mills FC remains disbanded. While the club had partnered with India On Track in 2015, things did not materialize and the team remained disbanded. This of course led to a lot of disappointment in the Indian football community.

While JCT Mills might not make its return to Indian football, fans in Punjab and all over India do not need to worry as the state is set to have its own team. The upcoming season will see RoundGlass Punjab FC rubbing its shoulders against the top guns in the ISL.

Punjab FC might not be able to fulfill the void of JCT FC. However, it will carry forward a legacy. A legacy set by JCT Football Club. Even though the team remains disbanded, its contribution to Indian football can never be forgotten. After all, from Sunil Chhetri to Baichung Bhutia, every top player once called JCT home.