THE 123RD EDITION of the historic IFA Shield is kicking off tomorrow in Kolkata, and this time it carries a much different flavour.
Postponed from earlier in 2020 to December due to the COVID-19, this is the first time the iconic Shield will take place behind closed doors. Also, for the first time in over a century, the Shield will not feature either of its most successful clubs - East Bengal and Mohun Bagan - both of whom are unable to participate due to them playing in the Indian Super League in Goa right now.
The IFA Shield became a central part of Indian football folklore when in 1911 it became a rallying cry for nationalism through Mohun Bagan's historic victory over British teams with a mostly barefoot contingent.
Since then, the Shield has remained one of the most prestigious football tournaments in the country, featuring the best clubs that Indian football has had to offer at that time along with guest clubs from across Asia and Europe, including FC Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine), Pyongyang City Sports Club (North Korea), FC Bayern Munich II (Germany) and Palmeiras B (Germany).
After its highly popular 2014 edition which saw Mohammedan Sporting Club claim the title in penalities - a game witnessed by a crowd of 60,000 at Kolkata's Salt Lake Stadium - the tournament was turned into an U-19 competition to make room for Indian Super League which was granted an exclusive window by AIFF at that time. (During which no other senior football competition could take place)
After 6 long years the Shield is finally going back to featuring senior club sides from across India. With the I-League scheduled to kick off in January in the same city, it's also fitting right into the Indian football calendar as a nice prelude to the league season.
Gokulam Kerala FC, who won the prestigious Durand Cup in Kolkata last season, have already made the journey from Kozhikode to the Bengal capital. Mohammedan Sporting, who recently won the I-League Qualifiers, have been playing friendly matches to prepare for IFA Shield. Meanwhile, Indian Arrows have held a training camp ahead of this tournament, to get their youthful squad ready for this valuable experience.
And although East Bengal & Mohun Bagan will not be fielding their teams this time, they'll be present in spirit by hosting multiple matches in their own stadiums.
The detailed groups, fixtures, venues and kick-off times of the tournament are given below...
Group A: Kidderpore SC, Mohammedan SC, Kalighat MS
Group B: Real Kashmir FC, Peerless SC, Aryan Club
Group C: Indian Arrows, Southern Samity, George Telegraph SC
Group D: United SC, Gokulam Kerala FC, BSS SC
Group Stage Fixtures (Every match kicks off at 1:30 pm)
6/12/2020: Kidderpore SC vs Mohammedan SC (Group A, Salt Lake Stadium)
6/12/2020: Real Kashmir FC vs Peerless SC (Group B, East Bengal Ground)
6/12/2020: Indian Arrows vs Southern Samity (Group C, Mohun Bagan Ground)
6/12/2020: United SC vs Gokulam Kerala FC (Group D, Kalyani Stadium)
9/12/2020: Kidderpore SC vs Kalighat MS (Group A, Rabindra Sarobar)
9/12/2020: Real Kashmir FC vs Aryan Club (Group B, Kalyani Stadium)
9/12/2020: Indian Arrows vs George Telegraph (Group C, Howrah Stadium)
9/12/2020: United SC vs BSS SC (Group D, Mohun Bagan Ground)
12/12/2020: Mohammdean SC vs Kalighat MS (Group A, Kalyani Stadium)
12/12/2020: Peerless SC vs Aryan Club (Group B, Mohun Bagan Ground)
12/12/2020: Southern Samity vs George Telegraph SC (Group C, East Bengal Ground)
12/12/2020: Gokulam Kerala FC vs BSS SC (Group D, Howrah Stadium)
Knockout Stage Fixtures (Every match kicks off at 1 pm)
Quarter Finals (14/12/2020)
Winners Group A vs Runners Group B (Kalyani Stadium)
Winners Group B vs Runners Group C (East Bengal Ground)
Winners Group C vs Runners Group B (Mohun Bagan Ground)
Winners Group D vs Runners Group A (Howrah Stadium)
Semi Finals (16/12/2020)
Winners Quarter Final 1 vs Winners Quarter Final 2 (Salt Lake Stadium)
Winners Quarter Final 3 vs Winners Quarter Final 4 (Kalyani Stadium)
Winner Semi Final 1 vs Winner Semi Final 2 (Salt Lake Stadium)