Started in 1884 by Mortimer Durand, Durand Cup is the 3rd oldest football tournament in the world. Only the English FA Cup and the Scottish Cup precede Durand Cup in terms of antiquity. It was initially played in Simla. The inaugural tournament was won by Royal Scot Fusiliers who defeated Highland Light Infantry 2-1. Durand has rich traditions of involving the regiment and army teams. Since its inception, these teams have taken active part in the tournament. After independence, teams from Indian Army take part in the qualifying round.
Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have won the Durand Cup a record number of times – 16. However, recent proceedings have been dominated by clubs outside Kolkata. The last time a Kolkata team won Durand Cup was way back in the 2002-03 season when East Bengal triumphed. Churchill Brothers has been the most successful team in the past 3 seasons. They won in 2007 and 2009, while finishing second in 2008. Among the regiment teams, Army XI has done exceptionally well, winning the title in 2005.
The 123rd edition of the Durand Cup starts on 27th October with 12 teams. Two of India’s biggest clubs – Mohun Bagan and Dempo have skipped this year’s tournament. Indian National Team players, who are taking part in Asian Cup next year, will also not participate. 16 teams took part in qualifying rounds, the 3 teams that made the final cut are – MEG (Bangalore), Garhwal Heroes (New Delhi) and Indian Air Force (New Delhi). Twelve teams have been divided into 4 groups of 3 teams. The best team from each group will qualify for semi-final.
Group A contain defending champion Churchill Brothers, Army Red and MEG Bangalore. After a disappointing exit in the Federation Cup semi-final, Churchill’s main target will be to keep their recent success in Durand Cup continue. Last year, they won by beating Mohun Bagan in the final. Odafa flummoxed the Bagan defence as Churchill won 3-1. They are arguably in the easiest group with two regiment teams in it. MEG Bangalore qualified after a hard fought 1-0 win over AOC. Jiten Metaei scored the decisive goal in that match.
Group B pairs Chirag United and Pune FC along with Indian Air force. Chirag hit a bad patch in Kolkata Football League recently, losing to Peerless. However, they bounced back with a well deserved win against Mohammedan Sporting. Striker Josimer is in prime form having scored seven goals in KFL. Coach Subrata Bhattacharya will have his options curtailed due to injuries to various players.
Pune FC struggled to perform without Subrata Paul in Fed Cup. It was clear that they needed reinforcements – which they promptly obtained. Guinean striker Mandjou Kieta was signed to bolster the attack. Kieta had an impressive stint for Salgaocar last season and Pune FC would be hoping he strikes the same form for them.
Indian Air Force qualified after defeating Garhwal Heroes in penalty shootout. After a goal-less 90 minutes, the Airmen kept their cool and converted all five spot kicks. Indian Air Force won all games in qualifier scoring 8 goals in 3 matches.
JCT, Sporting Clube de Goa and Garhwal Heroes find themselves in Group C. Local outfit Garhwal Rifles qualified after defeating AOC 3-0. They were included as Dempo withdrew their name in the last moment. JCT would be looking to bounce back from a depressing performance in the Fed Cup. The Phagwara outfit failed to take home advantage in Fed Cup, losing to greenhorns of AIFF XI. Without long time coach Sukhwinder Singh, the mill-men are often looking radar-less.
Sporting Clube de Goa suffered ignominy of i-League relegation last season. The club was recently boosted by the success of its under-19 team. Sporting colts won U-19 i-League title by defeating East Bengal in Kolkata. Sporting has a decent record in Durand Cup having reached 2 semi-finals and 1 final since 2004.
The final group, Group D, contains the most in-form team in India right now – East Bengal. Under English coach Trevor Morgan, the Red and Gold’ have been an unstoppable juggernaut. Till now they have won 15 games out of 15 played, while scoring goals aplenty. They captured the Fed Cup title after a tight match with archo-rivals Mohun Bagan. East Bengal is also looking invincible in KFL. Morgan has rotated his squad well which has kept the foreign imports fresh. Penn Orji, Tolgey Ozbey and Ikene has formed a fearsome trident while Mehtab Hussain has been brilliant in the midfield.
Salgaocar and Air India would try to stop the Red & Gold machine in Group D. Salgaocar coach Karim Bencharifa oversaw a historic 5-3 win over East Bengal a year ago. Bencharifa was the Bagan coach at that time. A lot of things have changed in past one year; the Moroccan coach is unlikely to repeat something like that with Salgaocar.
27 Oct 2010: Churchill Bros VS MEG, Bangalore 1700 hrs
28 Oct 2010: Sporting Goa VS Garhwal Heroes 1300 hrs
28 Oct 2010: Air India VS Salgaocar SC 1500 hrs
29 Oct 2010: Army Red VS MEG, Bangalore 1300 hrs
29 Oct 2010: Pune FC Vs Indian Air Force 1500 hrs
30 Oct 2010: Sporting Goa VS JCT Phagwara 1300 hrs
30 Oct 2010: East Bengal Club VS Air India 1500 hrs
31 Oct 2010: Churchill Brothers VS Army Red 1300 hrs
31 Oct 2010: Pune FC VS Chirag United 1500 hrs
01 Nov 2010: Garhwal Heroes VS JCT Phagwara 1300 hrs
01 Nov 2010: East Bengal Club VS Salgaocar SC 1500 hrs
02 Nov 2010: Chirag United VS Indian Air Force 1300 hrs
03 Nov 2010: 1st SEMI FINAL 1715 hrs
04 Nov 2010: 2nd SEMI FINAL 1715 hrs
07 Nov 2010: FINAL 1700 hrs