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Why ISL teams' decision to play Durand Cup with reserve squads can be fruitful

Written by: Uttiyo Sarkar

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Indian Football Team head coach Igor Stimac is likely to attend few games of the tournament for scouting purposes.

With the Durand Cup all set to return after a three-year hiatus, the organizers have glittered things up by inviting five Indian Super League(ISL) teams to participate in the historic competition. Indeed, FC Goa, ATK, Jamshedpur FC, Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC are all set for their debuts to further inscribe themselves into the history books.

While the four Army sides will be playing with their best available unit against the professional giants, the I-League clubs are also expected to involve their senior players into the competition. However, due to unavaibility of few of their foreign and Indian stars and several other reasons, few ISL teams will only be able to play their reserve sides in the tournament.

Of course, Kolkata, which is hosting the tournament for the first time ever, would’ve loved to have been graced by the country’s top players. However, with the recently concluded Intercontinental Cup, many are now enjoying their vacations and not obliged to play before their pre-season before the ISL season begins.

That being said, one shouldn’t downplay the strength nor ability which these reserve squads posses for the ISL giants. Most of the teams perform round the clock in their local state leagues, different tournaments and are the perfect platform for the young players to thrive at. Indeed, FC Goa have performed well in the Goa Professional League and won the competition last season, ATK reserves gained promotion to the Calcutta Football League 1st division, where they are playing right now and Jamshedpur FC have also performed in the JSA competitions.

Bengaluru FC reserves, on the other hand, dominated the I-League second division last season. Not only did they finish the top of their group, but also scored the most goals in the group stages. Promising showings from young Atlamash Sayed and Naorem Roshan Singh proved how the future for the ISL champions looks bright. Even FC Goa and ATK did relatively well in the second division, while Chennaiyin FC and Jamshedpur reserves are on a path to redemption after failing to impress.

However, even in their relatively short history, the ISL sides’ reserves sides have made their mark in the Indian football circuit. With experienced coaches being handed responsibilities to develop the youths of the clubs, the roots for the future success of these clubs have already been planted in advance.

Not only have they participated in the second division, but the ISL reserve sides’ participation in various tournaments and nation-wide competitions have also helped their cause. Unlike the senior sides whose’ season normally runs over just six months, the reserves have a much lengthier and straining seasons as they have to compete around the clock to impress the coaches.

As a result, they’ve definitely endured the obstacles which lie await in the form of intimidating opposition in the Durand Cup. The I-League clubs started their pre-season campaign very recently and could be lacking in match-fitness in comparison to the youthful reserves side bundled with packed energy. Not only will their players be ready, but their match fitness and chemistry in playing together as compared to the almost new-look I-League sides could give them an edge

Now, there’s little doubt the I-League sides, who are expected to play some senior players, will be superior in terms of holding the more experienced, talented players. That being said, with little to lose, the young reserves sides have the perfect chance to shock the giants and make a name for Also, the national team coach Igor Stimac is likely to attend some matches for scouting purposes, which gives even more incentive for the players to bring their A-Game.



Altamash Sayed and Naorem Singh scored six and five goals respectively and looked fiery going forward for Bengaluru FC reserves in the second division. ATK captain Yumnam Gopi Singh also netted five times in the second division group stages, while emerging stars like Asish Jha and Thomyo Shimray will also be aiming to use the Durand Cup as a stepping stone to the senior team.

FC Goa’s Aaren D Silva is another bright goal-scoring prospect who perfectly reflects the Gaurs attacking mentality, while Jamshedpur FC will aim to give a representation of their impressive work in producing some of the best young players in the country. There’s little doubt that Stimac’s main objective is to scout the best domestic talent from the I-League clubs, but knowing his unbiased view on players, he won’t hold back if a reserve player performs exceedingly well.

It’s not only the perfect platform for these underdogs to prove their might against the I-League giants, but some reserve players can imitate bygone legends in carving their road to stardom by shining through in the legendary Durand Cup.

Published: Mon Jul 22, 2019 02:51 PM IST

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