Kolkata, Dec 21: Christmas came early to the 'City of Joy' as the inaugural Indian Super League champions Atletico de Kolkata returned home to a hero's welcome with thousand of fans joining in celebration here today.
The full team, with the glittering trophy erected in front of the team bus, headed straight to a luxury mall in Park Circus where thousands of fans in red and white stripes gathered shouting 'three cheers to ATK... hip, hip, hurray'.
Captain Luis Garcia and coach Antonio Habas firmly held the glittering trophy together as the duo disembarked from the bus, followed by the team, support staff and owners before getting on to the podium in front of a packed crowd inside the mall which was decked up in red.
While Garcia and Habas uncorked the champagne and poured it into the giant trophy on revolving platform, team co-owner Sourav Ganguly delivered his thanksgiving speech as the supporters kept on chanting 'ATK, ATK...' clicking photos from their mobile phones.
"We are the champions in both cricket (Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL) and football (ISL) this year. Three cheers to Kolkata," shouted a die-had supporter.
Later talking to reporters, Ganguly said giving the football crazy city its first title in the sport was really unique. "Thanks to everyone for supporting us. The journey had begun about three months back and now we have become the first champions of the ISL."
"This is a big win for Kolkata. No doubt there were many people at the Lord's but here Kolkata have won the first title. I'm extremely happy."
Terming this a fabulous milestone, Ganguly further said there would be many more titles in future. "This is just the beginning, there will be many trophies in future. I'm very happy for Kolkata, we will make a stronger team next year."
The team had received its first congratulatory message from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, ATK co-owner Sanjiv Goenka said. "CM was the first to send a message of congratulations last night. The game got over at 9.01pm and we got a message from the CM at 9.02pm," Goenka said.
On becoming champions of the IPL twice, the cricket franchise league, Kolkata Knight Riders were given state felicitation on both the occasions.
'Felicitation after Christmas'
Asked whether a state felicitation was in the offing, Goenka said: "With Christmas round the corner, the players are heading to their respective home towns. Maybe later, we'll have a felicitation."
The team members who won a prize purse of Rs eight crore last night were also showered by incentives by the owners, but the ATK co-owner refused to divulge the amount.
Asked whether Habas would be retained for the next season, Goenka said: "We want to make a team with minimum change. We have to sit now and see what all can be improved. It's been a learning curve for all of us. Championship is good being champions is good but ATK can improve."
Earlier, similar jubilant scenes were witnessed at the airport as hundreds of fans in team jerseys gathered waving the flags as the victors touched down at 1.25pm via a chartered flight.
There too Garica and Habas brought together the trophy and the coach said, "It was an amazing experience. I've coached in many countries like Bolivia, South Africa and Spain and this will also rank among the best."