THE DURAND COMMITTEE HAS written to the AIFF, requesting an intervention in the matter of East Bengal not fielding their first team in the upcoming Durand Cup 2019 tournament.
The 129th edition of this 131 year old tournament is going to be held in West Bengal for the first time, making this the first time the prestigious Asia's oldest and the world's third oldest football tournament has visited the state. Many of the matches will be held in the home stadiums of East Bengal and Mohun Bagan; others will be held at the Salt Lake Stadium, the Kalyani Stadium etc.
The competition will see the participation of a number of I-League and ISL teams, making it the most high profile edition of the tournament in years.
But the ISL teams - Bengaluru FC, ATK, Chennaiyin FC, Jamshedpur FC and FC Goa - wrote saying they wanted to send their reserve teams. The Durand Cup organizers agreed to it. But what they did not anticipate was that even the local big clubs whom they depended on to bring in the crowd would want to follow that example.
East Bengal head coach Alejandro Menendez decided to field the U-19 team in the Durand Cup, choosing to focus the senior players' efforts on the simultaneously ongoing Calcutta Football League. This caused concern among the Durand organizers that fans will not be motivated to show up at 3 pm to see U-19 teams compete.
The Durand Committee wrote a letter to the All India Football Federation, asking them to intervene and ensure East Bengal field their senior team in the tournament.
There is also existing concern over Mohun Bagan and perhaps even Mohammedan Sporting following East Bengal's example and refuse to field their major players in the Durand Cup, although neither clubs have said anything on the matter so far.
The Maidan appears to be divided on the matter; while some are claiming that the Durand Committee laid the groundwork for this to happen when they accepted ISL teams' request to send B teams, while others believe as the big local clubs who are meant to carry the popularity of the tournament, East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting should play their part by fielding senior players which will spur the fanbase to throng the stadiums.
It remains to be seen if East Bengal reverse their decision, whether the other big two follow their example or if the AIFF decides to get involved in this matter.