7/30/2019 1:27:16 PM (GMT+3)

Can Durand Cup revive its lost glory?

Can Durand Cup revive its lost glory?

NEW DELHI: Durand Cup, India’s oldest football tournament which was started in 1888, will kick off on Friday after a gap of three years at its new base -- Kolkata.

But who is to be blamed for such a fiasco, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) or the Durand organisers?

In fact, the biggest mistake made by the Durand Cup Society in 2013 was to rotate the tournament to different cities which, however, was a violation of the tournament’s constitution and conventions as it was always held in the Capital after 1947.

No wonder then the 2014 edition, which was staged in Goa, had limited success. The tournament wasn’t held the next year, but returned to Delhi (2016) where Army Green became the champions beating I-League club Neroca FC (Manipur) on penalties 6-5.

If the Army Sports Control Board, tournament organisers, had shelved their needless rotation policy, the tournament could have been held in Delhi this year as the Durand authorities has the finances to make it a success, if held at the right time.

Another reason for its absence on the football calendar was that it failed to procure dates from the AIFF in 2017 and 2018.

Hence, India’s most glamorous football tournament started losing its lustre and attraction.

Till India started a semi-professional National Football League in 1996-97 season, Durand was the most prestigious tournament as it is also the third oldest in the world after FA Cup in England (1872) and the FA Cup in Scotland (1878).

This time, sixteen teams will take part in the tournament, which will held from August 2-24 in Kalyani, Howrah and Kolkata. Six I-League including 16 times champions Mohun Bagan and East Bengal and Gokulam (Kerala) and six ISL teams are participating along with four from the Services, Army Red, holders Army Green, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF). The sixteen participants has been divided into four equal groups in the initial league phase. The group winners and runners up will progress to the knock out quarterfinals of the 129th Durand tournament.

The AIFF President Praful Patel had said last year that prestigious tournaments like Durand and Rovers Cup would be revived so that institutional and I -League Second Division teams would also get exposure.

A major problem is that many Indian players get limited match exposure, if they are not in the national team. In the 10-team ISL, a player gets a maximum of 18 matches and in the 11-team I-League 20 matches per season though it’s essential for both development of referees and players. (The writer is a senior sports journalist and commentator)