The historic Durand Cup, which is the oldest club football tournament in Asia and the world’s third oldest, will be played in the the ‘City of Joy’ Kolkata for the next five editions.
Aroop Biswas West Bengal Minister for Sports & Youth Affairs and Lt. General Kamal Repswal, Chief of Staff HQ Eastern Command, made the announcement at Fort William during the unveiling of the iconic Durand Cup trophies on Thursday.
“The 129th edition of the Durand Cup was held in Kolkata in 2019. The kind of response the tournament got in Kolkata was immense, with tremendous amount of support from the state government. I must mention it because every department of the state govt. went out of their way to ensure the tournament becomes a success,” General Repswal said.
“You will all be very happy to know that for the next five years, Durand Cup will be conducted in Kolkata,” he added, confirming Kolkata as the home of the Durand Cup until 2025.
The tournament is traditionally organized by the Indian Army on behalf of our Armed Forces and from this year onward, the Government of West Bengal will join as co-hosts.
WB Sports Minister Aroop Biswas also clarified that fans will be able to watch the games in person at the stadium in the latter half of the tournament, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The West Bengal Government has allowed 50% capacity inside stadiums but the Durand Cup tournament committee, in light of the pandemic, has decided to allow minimal attendance and then gradually towards the end of the tournament, if everything goes well, we will allow 50% attendance in compliance with government norms during the latter stages”, Aroop Biswas said on Thursday.
General Repswal also confirmed that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will be in attendance for the inauguration and opening match of the 130th Durand Cup on 5th September at Vivekananda Yubabharati Krirangan.
The first-ever Durand Cup was held in 1888, after the English FA Cup and Scottish Cup which started in 1871 and 1874 respectively and the 130th edition of the legendary tournament will kick off from September 5.
Shimla served as hosts in the earlier years of the Durand Cup before the tournament shifted base to New Delhi in 1940. In 2019 however, the tournament returned after a three-year absence but to its newest home – Kolkata.
The inaugural edition happened in Shimla in 1888, when it started off as an Army Cup, open only to the British Indian Army troops in India, but soon opened up to civilian teams. Named after its founder, Sir Mortimer Durand, Foreign Secretary of British India from 1884 to 1894, the iconic tournament reached its 130th edition in 2021. Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have been the most successful teams, winning the tournament 16 times each.
In the previous 129th edition in 2019, held for the first time in Kolkata, Gokulam Kerala emerged champions, beating home favourites Mohun Bagan 2-1 in front of a packed Saltlake stadium, to register their first silverware in club history. This year, they are back to defend that title.
A total of 16 teams are vying for the 130th Durand Cup Champions title and besides the defending champions, ISL franchise Kerala Blasters are the second team from the southernmost State known for its football fanaticism.
The ISL is well represented with Bengaluru FC, FC Goa, Jamshedpur FC and Hyderabad FC joining the Blasters. The century old Mohammedan Sporting, the tournament’s first Indian winner, will represent the local challenge along with fellow I-Leaguers Sudeva FC of Delhi and of course Gokulam. A second team from Delhi and Bengaluru, Delhi FC and Bengaluru United bring up the second division challenge while the Army also has two teams in the form of Army Green and Army Red. The Indian Air Force, The Indian Navy, The Assam Rifles and CRPF are the other four teams in the tournament to be played from September 5-October 3, 2021.
The 130th Durand Cup, with 31 matches, will be held 19 days across the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan (14 games), the Mohun Bagan Club Ground (9 games) and the Kalyani Municipal Stadium Ground (8 games).
The Durand Cup is unique in the sense the winners are awarded three trophies with two rolling ones (the Durand Cup and the Shimla Trophy) and the President’s Cup for permanent keeping.
The teams have been divided into four groups, with the top two from each advancing to the quarter-finals. The two semi-finals are scheduled for 27th and 29th September. The final will take place on 3rd October.
The four groups for the 130th Durand Cup are as follows:
Group A – Indian Air Force Football Team, Bengaluru United, CRPF, Mohammedan Sporting Club
Group B – Army Green Football Team, FC Goa, Jamshedpur FC, Sudeva Delhi FC
Group C – Bengaluru Football Club, Delhi FC, Indian Navy Football Team, Kerala Blasters Football Club
Group D – Assam Rifles Football Team, Army Red Football Team, Gokulam Kerala Football Club, Hyderabad FC