After a delayed start to Mongolian National Premier League, the 2021 season finally gets underway this weekend with games starting on Sunday 1st August.
For those that may be unfamiliar with the league, it usually operates from April until October/November time. This is due to the Mongolian climate and weather being more extreme outside of this months. Whilst a full schedule has not been released, rumours are they aim to have the league finish by December/January time by playing more games regularly. There are 10 teams in the league and will play 18 matches each. Meaning they play every team twice, once at home and once away. There is promotion/relegation within the Mongolian Football pyramid, so the bottom two teams in National Premier League will be relegated to the Mongolian First League, whereas the top two teams of the Mongolian First League will be promoted to the Premier League. No playoffs.
Despite the exciting dramatic games and news throughout the 2020 season, particularly around Athletic 220 FC and Ulaanbaatar City fighting for an AFC Cup spot. This season has some intrigue already due to two off-field stories.
The first is that BCH Lions and Khoromkhon FC have joined the league after gaining promotion from the First League last season. But also the fact that Ulaanbaatar Mazaalaynuud have kept their position in the top flight despite being relegated, due to the fact that Anduud City has potentially been dissolved. This is due to rumours around players and staff not being paid and the fact that owner Christian Wolf has departed from the club, selling his ownership shares. There is uncertainty as to whether they will play in a lower league or dissolve completely, no news as of yet. Anduud City looked to impress after their rebrand in 2018, with a focus on becoming one of the top and most successful club in Mongolia.
The second change and biggest one is that the fact that Chinese electronics manufacturer Hisense has been announced as the the new sponsor for the National Premier League. This sponsor will see growth and stability in the league due to the influx of finances from the Chinese company. Hopefully meaning the standard and development of the league will increase and allow for more exciting players and football. The league will be offically known as the Hisense National Premier League after purchasing naming rights. A smaller sponsor PC Mall has also invested money into the league.
With all of that out of the way, let me introduce you to the 2021 Premier League Teams!
Founded in 2016, City are a side which have quickly established themselves as one the top teams in the league. Despite the near miss of relegation in their first season, the club bounced back the following year, finishing second in the league and winning the MFF Cup. The following year, they couldn't quite match their feats in the league, finishing 6th. Although, they did win the Mongolian Super League. But it was in 2019, City finally won their first Premier League title. After finishing level on points with 12 time champions Erchim, the title was decided by head-to-head results between the two teams, which City had the better of. Stopping Erchim from winning their 5th consecutive title. With this title win, it allowed City to qualify for the AFC Cup for the 2020 edition for the first time. However due to Covid, the competition was cancelled and City never got to perform on the continental stage.
Despite some poor performances last year and finishing 7th. City should certainly be considered a title contender.
Deren FC are club which were founded 13 years ago back in 2008. They are named after the Dutch company which built and constructed the MFF Football Centre, which is the Mongolian National teams stadium. The side spent a couple of years playing in lower leagues within the footballing pyramid, but were promoted to the Premier League for the 2015 season. Since then, they have remained in the top flight and have improved in terms of quality and attack year on year. For the 2020 season, Deren finished sixth with 33 points, scoring 14 goals, of which surprisingly defender Mönkh-Orgil Orkhon scored 12 of them.
Whilst I don't think relegation is on the cards, I don't expect Deren to be winning the league either. They will very much be a team which sits in the middle of table, however they are capable of a shock result against top teams.
The Red Knights were founded in 2010 and in their first season they won the Premier League Title. The format of the league was slightly different then, with all teams playing each other twice and instead of having an out and out winner, the top 4 teams would enter the semi-finals and then finals repsecitlvey. FC Ulaanbaatar beat Ulaanbaatar Univeristy 1-0 in extra time to clinch their first trophy. Following this, the Red Knights have an interesting and unpredictable history in the Premier League, finishing second some seasons and in a relegation battle for others. However, 2020 proved to be a good year for the side, finishing second in the league, missing out on the title and an AFC Cup spot by two points. They scored 56 goals across 18 matches, with Batkhishig Myagmar scoring 16 and 21-year old winger Baljinnyam Batbold scoring 13.
FC Ulaanbaatar have to be considered strong title contenders, especially if their players can find their 2020 goalscoring form.
This is the sides first time playing in the Premier League after being promoted as champions of the 2020 First League. The team were only formed three years ago back in 2018 after breaking away from SP Falcons. They started their football in the National Amateur Cup which is fourth divison football and have gained promotion up the leagues every year since 2018. Winning the Mongolia Second League for the 2019 season, the Mongolia First League for the 2020 season and gaining promotion to the Premier League for this upcoming 2021 season.
It would be quite hard to predict how the Lions will fare in the top flight given the fact their are a relatively new club and it is their first time in the divison. However, I imagine they may well be a dark horse in the league given their continuous promotions since their formation.
Nicknamed the Yellows, Khoromkhon were founded in 1999 however, they were known as Heiniken until they changed to their current name in 2003. The Yellows have spent time playing football at different levels in the pyramid, but had a good five year stint in the top divison in which they won the league title in 2014. Despite the achievement though, Khoromkhon's form continued to waver and in 2019, they found themselves relegated to the Mongolia First League. However, they did not allow their heads to drop and have gained promotion back to the Premier League for this 2021/2022 season after finishing 2nd in the divison. Winning 13, drawing 2 and losing 3, finishing only one point behind league champions and fellow promotees BCH Lions.
Unfortunately for Khoromkhon I think they will spend the large part of the season at the bottom half of the table, if not in a relegation battle.
Erchim are one of the most oldest and successful clubs in Mongolia football, winning the Premier League 10 times and have 12 trophies in total. The side qualified for the AFC Cup in 2017, which made them the first Mongolian club to participate in the competition. They have participated in the competition from 2017 to 2019, but have never made it past the group stage. In 2020 Erchim announced that they had merged with club Khaan Khuns Titem. Erchim have always finished the league either in first or second position apart from last season, where they finished at their lowest in 4th and this was despite scoring a whopping 64 goals (the best in the league). Tumenjargal Tsedenbal was their top scorer for the 2020 season, scoring 12.
Unlike other clubs in the league, Erchim was the first one to have their own stadium and continue to play in it. Due to 6 of the 10 teams in the Premier League all being located in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, they all play at the same stadium which is the MFF Football. Where as Deren play at the National Sports Stadium, Ulaanbaatar play at the G-Mobile Arena, and Khangarid play at Erdenet Stadium.
Despite their 'low' finish, I would fully expect The Lightnings to bounce back once again challenge for the title, if not win it.
Ulaanbaatar Mazaalainuud are a team from the capital city which were founded 23 years ago in 1998. Nicknamed the 'Gobi Bears' (A native Mongolian bear), the club have spent time in various divisions in Mongolian football. They are yet to win a trophy and at the moment they have a very young squad. They were due to be relegated to the Mongolia First League after finishing in 9th for the 2020 season. However, due to Anduud City dissolving, they secured their place in the top flight as the Football Association wanted to ensure 10 teams played in the league.
Whilst on one hand, the team is young and have shown some great fast attacking and energetic football in preseason, I do worry that the players don't have enough experience and veteran presence to ensure a good run in the 2021/2022 season. I think they will be at the bottom of the table throughout the season and would not rule out relegation. They may however give us some surprises.
Founded 25 years ago in 1996, Khangarid, otherwise nicknamed the Erdenets or Garudas, are a club from the Northern city of Erdenet. They have won the Premier League 4 times in their history, in the years 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2010. They have also won the Mongolian Cup 5 times in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2013. Last year they finished 3rd in the Premier League, scoring 52 and conceding 24. Tortogtokh Enkh-Erdene and Gankhuyag Serodyanjiv both scoring 12 goals each to help their side win their highest finish for some years. They have spent some time in First League over the years, but look to have a good side at the moment that is well balanced both in terms of defence and attack, as well as youth and experience.
I would imagine that Khangarid will finish in the top 4 this season, but may surprise many of us with a higher finish.
The 2020 champions and league winners, it was a year to remember for Athletic 220. As well as winning the league for the first time, they also secured their very first AFC Cup spot for 2021. However, the were unable to win a single game in the group stage, scoring just 1 goal and conceding 9 across the 3 games. They were founded five years ago in 2016 and started out playing in the Mongolia First League. In their first season, they finished runners in the league, gaining promotion to the Premier League alongside Goyo FC. Athletic will be looking to defend their title heading into this 2021/2022 season. They have a good balance between upcoming talented youth players, but also experienced veterans in the side. Forward Nyam-Osor Naranbold was in fantastic form, scoring 29 goals across the season, finishing top scorer in the league.
They will certainly be an exciting team to watch this year and believe they will finish in one of the top four spots, but I do not feel that they will have enough to maintain their title.
SP Falcons, otherwise known as Selenge Press Falcons, are a team based in the cpaital Ulaanbaatar and were founded in 2003. They have spent some seasons playing in other divisions, however have played in the Premier League for a number of years now. However, they have not managed to win any silverware in that time. The Falcons finished in fifth for the 2020 season with 35 points and scoring 49 goals. They also conceded the lowest in the league, 18 goals allowed in 18 games. 30-year old midfielder Mönkh-Erdengiin Tögöldör, scored most of the teams goals with 18.
The Falcons will likely finish in a similar position to last year.
Ulaanbaatar City v Khaan Khuns-Erchim | Sunday 1st August | 3am UK Time
Deren v SP Falcons | Sunday 1st August | 6am UK Time
UB Mazaalainuud v Khangarid | Sunday 1st August | 9am UK Time
BCH Lions v FC Ulaanbaatar | Sunday 1st August | 12pm UK Time
Athletic 220 v Khoromkhon | Monday 2nd August | 12pm UK Time
Where to watch
In the past, MyCujoo showed all of the Mongolian Premier League games live and for free each week. However, MyCujoo have since formed into ElevenSports. Whilst they advertise the game on their website, it is still not known if the league will be avaliable to watch and if it is, whether there will be a cost. We will keep you informed as we learn more and hopefully you will be able to join in watching this niche league.