The 2019 edition of the tournament will kickoff from August 2 in Kolkata.
The 129th Durand Cup is almost upon us, as Kolkata has the prestige of hosting the historic tournament for the first time ever from August 2. This time, the stakes have been raised, with several Indian Super League (ISL) teams also making their debuts in the tournament. Moreover, the I-League sides, including the three big Kolkata sides, are all set to light the tournament on their home turf.
While it might’ve been stalled by a three-year hiatus, the Durand Cup has acted as the platform for creating many legends in the Indian football circuit. It’s also been a place where history has been created over the years, while the top Indian sides have also asserted their legacy by performing brilliantly throughout. Moreover, some iconic moments have also taken place after the cup became a proper Indian tournament following Independence.
In the following, we’ll look at the top 10 moments in Durand Cup history:
10. Mohun Bagan were the first civilian team to participate in Durand Cup
After defying the odds to defeat the East Yorkshire Regiment in the 1911 IFA Shield final, Mohun Bagan became the beacon of hope for the people of India. They were highly popular and sought-after for the common man, which resulted in the British armed forces being forced to help them participate in the Durand Cup. The Mariners made history in 1925 when they were invited to become the first-ever civilian, all-Indian side to participate among the Britishers in the tournament.
They fought valiantly to defeat the Royal Berkshire Regiment, York Lancaster Regiment and Essex Regiment, but fell to Sherwood Forrest in the semi-finals. Nonetheless, the Mariners’ brave showing inspired the other Indian sides at the time, with Bagan paving the way for many other clubs to ply their trade in the competition in subsequent years.
9. JCT’s emergence begins with 1983 Durand Cup win
JCT are widely credited for being the pioneer for club football in Punjab, as it’s their impressive work in the 20th century which paved the way for all the talents coming through the state. The Punjabi side not only won the inaugural National Football League (NFL) title, but also a host of other trophies during that era. However, JCT’s emergence started from about the 1980s.
While their inaugural Durand Cup win came when they became joint-winners with the BSF in 1976, they truly established themselves among India’s best in 1983. JCT defeated Bagan in the final, avenging their loss in the 1977 showpiece. Not only did they comprehensively win the prestigious title, but JCT’s glorious rise would be triggered with the boost they received that year.
8. Tata Football Academy reached the final in 1995
The Tata Football Academy has undoubtedly been the biggest producer of prime talents for Indian football over the years, producing legendary Indian internationals with their top-class facilities. While the academy has always preferred to take part in junior-level competititons, they received an opportunity to impress in 1995 in the Durand Cup.
The side actually ended up surprising many, playing impressive football and ploughing through anyone who came in their way. The TFA side progressed to the final and took the fight to East Bengal, drawing 0-0 in regulation time. The Red and Gold later won on penalties, but TFA’s fantastic showing provided a glimpse of their excellent work in the development of Indian football.
7. Army Green became third armed forces side to lift Durand Cup in 2016
While the Durand Cup had lost some of the spark in recent years, with many top I-League teams including Bagan and East Bengal backing out, the last edition was still an entertaining one. The I-League 2nd Division sides gave a valiant showing, providing some entertaining matches to keep the aura of the competition alive.
However, the winners ended up being a surprise in Army Green. They came second in their group, ahead of Sporting Club de Goa and managed to defeat favourites Aizawl FC in the semi-finals. Moreover, they also defeated NEROCA FC in the final on penalties, creating some personal history by winning their inaugural Durand Cup and becoming the third army side to record the feat.
6. Mohun Bagan won a record 16th Durand Cup title in 2000
Mohun Bagan are not only the first-ever Indian side to participate in the Durand Cup, but have also been the most successful side in the tournament’s history. Thanks to their superior experience when it comes to the competition and powerful sides over the decade, they ruled the roost in many editions.
With the start of the 21st century, the Mariners started their new decade in a prosperous manner as well. Bagan went on to convincingly win the 2000 Durand Cup tournament, defeating Mahindra United 1-0 after the first game ended 1-1. With the mighty Jose Ramirez Barretto leading their line, the Mariners created history again by winning the most number of titles, with 16 under their belt! This is a record yet to be eclipsed, but with East Bengal sitting on a similar tally, this year could be decisive.
5. East Bengal won their first-ever Durand Cup in 1951
While East Bengal might be narrowly behind arch-rivals Bagan in the Durand Cup winners’ ladder, mostly due to the Mariners having played in more finals, but they’ve been equally dominant in the tournament. As a matter of fact, not only have the Red and Gold Brigade won the competition on 16 occasions as well, but they also won it before Bagan after the tournament began in the post-independence period.
East Bengal defeated the Rajasthan Armed Constabulary 2-1 in the 1951 Durand Cup final after the first one was drawn 1-1. Not only did they get ahead in the bragging rights race with the Mariners, but East Bengal’s victory also consolidated them as the second Kolkata side to win the competition after Mohammedan Sporting.
4. Madras Regimental Centre were the first Indian armed forces team to lift the title
The Indian armed forces had been taking part in the Durand Cup even during the pre-Independence era when the Simla Rifles participated in the tournament on many occasions. While they came up short by losing in multiple finals, the armed forces’ teams became much stronger after Independence. The Madras Regimental Centre earned a stark reputation for being heavy competition for the Kolkata giants and other big Indian sides after the tournament was restarted in 1950.
They earned the reputation for having many powerful players and in 1955, which saw the first all-Army Durand final after Independence, the Madras Regiment created history. They became the first armed forces side to win the tournament by defeating Indian Air Force 3-2 in the showpiece.
3. Mohun Bagan won their third consecutive Durand Cup in 1965
In the post-Independence era, Mohun Bagan quickly staked their dominance in the tournament. They took the competition very seriously due to the popularity it had in Delhi back then and after winning their first-ever tournament in 1953, the Mariners didn’t look back. They always featured in the big matches and during the 1960s showcased some amazing football.
Their star-studded team was unstoppable and the Mariners won three Durand Cup tournaments in a row from 1963-65. After defeating the Andhra Pradesh Police in 1963, East Bengal in 1964, they also beat Punjab Police in 1965 to complete the iconic treble. Led by the legendary Chuni Goswami and then Jarnail Singh, stars like Amal Chakraborty, Dipu Das and T.A. Rahman were also influential in creating their own invincible side, which dominated the Durand during that period.
2. Hyderabad Police oust Mohun Bagan in first post-Independence Durand Cup final
After Mohammedan Sporting’s exceptional Durand Cup win in 1940, the tournament was suspended permanently due to World War II and the Indian independence movement. Even after India gained its freedom, the partition with Pakistan caused countless problems due to which the Durand couldn’t be organized. However, in 1950, the tournament was revived with only Indian sides participating in it.
While all eyes were on the Kolkata biggies, Hyderabad City Police ended up making a huge impression in the tournament. Filled with talented, strong players, they fought their way to the final, where they faced the intimidating Bagan. While the first game ended in a thrilling 2-2 draw, Hyderabad Police clinched the first post-Independence Durand Cup title by defeating the Mariners 1-0. After that, the legendary Syed Abdul Rahim took the helm of the side and ushered in a glorious era for the team throughout the decade.
1. Mohammedan Sporting became first civilian team to win the Durand Cup
While the Mariners did make history in being the first civilian team to participate in the tournament, they, unfortunately, couldn’t win it until a long time. After their participation, teams like East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting also joined in trying to create history. Incidentally, it was the Black Panthers who carved a historic occasion for Indian football in 1940.
Mohammedan defied the odds playing against the intimidating British army, fighting their way to the final where they faced the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The game experienced some pre-match antics when Warrant Officers Oliphant and Greene refused to act as linesman under an Indian referee, Captain Harnam Singh. However, everything started as planned and goals from forward Hafiz Rashid and left winger Saboo gave the Black Panthers the win, much to the locals’ delight. It was also the last Durand Cup played in the pre-Independence era.