GUWAHATI: Twenty teams from across the country, including 11 Indian Super League sides, will vie for top honours this year in Asia’s oldest football tournament, the Durand Cup which begins at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on August 16.
Last year, 16 teams had participated in the 134-year-old tournament.
For the first time in its history, Assam will host 10 group matches, scheduled from August 17 to September 4, said state’s Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who unveiled the three Durand Cup trophies in the presence of senior officials of Indian Army, the organiser of the tournament.
The three trophies — Durand Cup (a rolling trophy and the original prize), Shimla Trophy (a rolling trophy and first given by residents of Shimla in 1904) and President’s Cup (for permanent keep and first presented by India’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad in 1956) — are currently on a five-city tour.
“The cooperation from the Assam government has been phenomenal and we are confident that this will herald a new beginning for the game in the state,” said Lt Gen K K Repswal, Chief of Staff (Eastern Command) and Durand Organising Committee chairman.
He said that the 131st edition of Durand Cup is getting bigger and better with 20-top teams of the country, including all 11 teams of ISL, participating this year.
“The matches in Guwahati will be held at the Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium in the city. I thank the Chief Minister for taking time out to encourage us in this effort at promoting and spreading the love for the game of football further in the state,” Repswal said.
The journey of the three trophies was flagged off from Kolkata on July 19 and after being in Guwahati for two days, will now proceed to Imphal, the first time host.
It will then proceed to Jaipur as for the first time Rajasthan will be fielding a team and will then make a final stop at the home of the defending champion FC Goa before returning back to Kolkata on July 31.
The final will also be played in Kolkata on September 18.
There will be a total of 47 games in the century-old tournament this year with both Guwahati and Imphal hosting 10-games of group C and group D each, while all the seven knockout games will be held in three West Bengal venues.
The opening pool matches are slated to begin on August 16 at Kolkata’s Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) stadium.
The first ever Durand Cup took place in Shimla in 1888, when it started off as an Army Cup, open only to the British Indian Army troops in India. It was soon opened for civilian teams.
The Durand Cup is Asia’s oldest and the world’s third oldest running football tournament.