THE 130TH EDITION of the Durand Cup, Asia's oldest and the world's third oldest surviving football tournament, will be a mega contest between 16 teams, including some of the most prominent clubs the country has.
Although neither of the two most successful clubs in the competition's history - East Bengal & Mohun Bagan - will participate (East Bengal are yet to finalize their deal with investors and Mohun Bagan have declined to many of their players being away on national duty and potential conflict with AFC Cup inter-zone semi final), the prestigious tournament will boast a high number of participants from ISL, I-League as well as 2nd Division League from across the country, including popular local club Mohammedan Sporting.
The clubs from Indian Super League that will participate are: Bengaluru FC, Kerala Blasters FC, Hyderabad FC, FC Goa & Jamshedpur FC. From I-League, there will be Gokulam Kerala FC (Durand Cup defending champions as well as the reigning I-League and Kerala Premier League champions), Mohammedan Sporting Club & Sudeva Delhi FC. Among the clubs who are currently expected to play in 2nd Division League (I-League Qualifiers) are FC Bengaluru United & Delhi Football Club.
There will be several teams from the armed forces also participating. Namely: Indian Navy, Army Red, Army Green, Assam Rifles, Indian Air Force (The current champions of Delhi) & CRPF FC.
The groups that the teams will be divided into are as follows...
Group A: Mohammedan Sporting, CRPF FC, FC Bengaluru United, Indian Air Force
Group B: Jamshedpur FC, Sudeva Delhi FC, FC Goa, Army Green
Group C: Delhi FC, Kerala Blasters, Bengaluru FC, Indian Navy
Group D: Gokulam Kerala FC, Hyderabad FC, Army Red, Assam Rifles
The top two teams from each group will progress to the quarter-finals.
Although the Durand Cup's traditional home is Delhi, it has had several editions held in other parts of the country. In 2019, Kolkata hosted this historic tournament for the first time to a massive positive response from the city's football lovers. This is what led the armed forces, who organize Durand, to decide to hold the competition in Kolkata this time upon its return from a COVID-19 induced gap year.
The tournament is expected to begin on 5th September and it will run till 3rd October. The champions will receive a cash prize of Rs 40 lakhs, apart from the three storied trophies (Durand Cup, President's Cup & Shimla Trophy) that are awarded to the winner. The runners up will receive Rs 20 lakhs, while the semi-finalists will receive Rs 5 lakhs each.