The competition will be played out in five venues across West Bengal from 2nd August onward.
The 129th Durand Cup officially kicked off proceedings at the Fort William, Kolkata prior to the start of the games on 2nd August. In what is a historic edition for the tournament normally held in the capital New Delhi, the competition will take place in Kolkata for the first time ever.
The Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports in West Bengal, Aroop Biswas spoke on this historic occasion for the football-loving city of Kolkata and explained the situation. He said, “This is the first time the Durand Cup is happening in Kolkata. The Kolkata Police and the West Bengal Police are also helping us organize this prestigious tournament. The Durand is the third oldest tournament in world football right now.”
“The matches will take place at the East Bengal, Mohun Bagan Ground, Salt Lake Stadium and even in Kalyani and Siliguri Stadium. Our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is also helping us organize this tournament as she wants a big tournament to happen in India. Mohun Bagan have won the Durand Cup 16 times and East Bengal have also won it an equal number of times. I hope that a Kolkata team becomes champions this time in front of their fans as well,” he added.
The chief guest for the Durand Cup, Lt. General RP Kalita also spoke of his own pleasure at organizing the tournament for the first time ever in Kolkata. He stated, “It gives me pleasure that the tournament this year has shifted to the city of Joy, Kolkata. We’re also grateful to the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and Indian Football Association (IFA) of West Bengal for extending their support.”
He further explained, ”As you all are aware, this year 16 teams compromising players of high calibre from the ISL, I-League and Armed Forces are going to participate. The opportunity to play with these highly professional teams will provide the service team with some valuable experience. It’ll also help us identify some players for the national team. I hope this edition will bring back value for the tournament and inspire the youth in our country.”
Maj Gen. Basant Kumar Repswal, also heavily involved with organizing the tournament for the first time in three years, elaborated the decision to mix it up with ISL teams. He stated, “The Durand Cup has gotten here with a lot of heart, lot of relationship-building and lot of expectations. We’re trying to give it a pan-India geographical character by bringing five ISL teams, seven I-League teams and four Armed Forces teams. The biggest religion of the world is not even a religion, it’s football. So, we wish all the best to the sixteen teams fighting to win the tournament.”
Moreover, when asked about why the competition didn’t happen in the last three years, he added, “Football is not even played with feet, but it also requires a lot of heart. There was a reason for us to put the best teams together for the pan-India character. We needed to bring it to the right city, to the football-loving capital. It’s very hard to see the kind of crowd we see here anywhere else. So, it took us 2-3 years to build the consensus that we have built now.”
Another persistent question was whether the Indian Super League teams were going to send their reserves or senior teams on which he explained, “You see, this is the first time we’re getting the ISL teams. We were looking for a very nice window before the football season starts. We were networking with everyone including the AIFF. The issue is that there’s a transfer window and squad is training abroad.”
“Then there’s also the issue with foreign players’ availability for the different teams. Mostly the ISL teams will be sending reserve squads. We wanted this tournament to happen in Kolkata and with mutual consultation, we’ve agreed to get the ISL and I-League teams,” he quipped.
It was also announced that the West Bengal Chief Minister will be inaugurating the competition at the Salt Lake Stadium in the opening match on 2nd August. She will also be present during the final and President of India Ram Nath Kovind might be present at the showpiece as well.
The semi-finals and final will be shown live on the Star Sports Network after the Army managed to strike a deal with Star TV. Meanwhile, there’s also a high chance of the games being shown on DD Sports, as it has been over the years. Tickets for the games will be on sale at BookMyShow from Thursday onwards. The winners will be handed ₹40 lakhs as prize money, while the finalists will be given ₹20 lakhs. The semi-finalists will also be given ₹5 lakhs each for their efforts.