THE HISTORIC IFA SHIELD is returning to its former self, once again featuring senior teams in its 123rd edition. But two of its iconic regular participants will be absent this time.
After the widely popular 2014 edition, the IFA Shield was turned into an U-19 tournament due to AIFF giving an exclusive window in the Indian football calendar to the Indian Super League, cutting the season short for independent clubs. But in 2020, the Indian Football Association (West Bengal) wanted to bring it back to its former glory. However, the COVID-19 pandemic made their job a lot more difficult.
After an initial postponement, it was decided that the tournament would take place behind closed doors between 6th and 19th December 2020. But the two biggest teams from Kolkata, East Bengal (Record 29 times IFA Shield champions) and Mohun Bagan (21 time champions) will be confined to the COVID-19 safety bubbles at the ISL during that time. Hence, neither will be able to take part in this tournament.
This is the first time in almost a century that neither East Bengal nor Mohun Bagan will be present in this 127 year old competition.
To make up for their absence, the IFA have roped in four clubs from the I-League, including Gokulam Kerala FC (Durand Cup 2019 champions), Indian Arrows (AIFF developmental team), Sudeva Delhi FC (New I-League entrants) and Mohammedan Sporting (6 time champions, newly promoted to I-League after winning I-League Qualifiers, last club to win the Shield with a senior team).
Along with them, 8 teams from the Calcutta Football League will also participate in the IFA Shield 2020, including CFL 2019 champions Peerless Sports Club.
At an event in a Kolkata five star hotel, the IFA laid out the grouping for the competition:
Group A - Mohammedan SC, Kidderpore SC, Kalighat MS
Group B - Sudeva Delhi FC, Peerless SC, Aryan Club
Group C - Indian Arrows, Southern Samity, George Telegraph SC
Group D - Gokulam Kerala FC, United SC, BSS Sporting Club
The Shield will serve as the first national level tournament of the season for every participating team other than Mohammedan Sporting Club, and apart from the historical bragging rights will set the stage for the highly anticipated I-League 2020-21 which is currently in a power vaccum, with its two biggest clubs Mohun Bagan (2019-20 champions) and East Bengal having moved onto the ISL.
For Mohammedan Sporting, who have already won the I-League Qualifiers earlier this season, this is an opportunity to be the first club in over a decade to win 3 national level trophies in the same season; provided they win both IFA Shield and I-League.