Amidst the Brouhaha of the Indian Super League- which is surprisingly tipped as the birth of Indian football -the world’s third oldest tournaments – The Durand Cup kicks off in Goa. The 127th edition of the coveted tournament is held in the coastal state which breaks a trend of the tournament happening only in the national capital since 1940. All the big names from Goa, namely Churchill Brothers, Salgaocar, Vasco and Sporting Club de Goa have confirmed their participation with other powerhouses too following the same path. After the results of the preliminary were confirmed – we now have all the groups decided. Lets take a look at one of the more tricky groups in the first round namely Group C – constituting defending Champions Mohammedan Sporting, Debutants and defending I-League champions Bengaluru FC and a hardworking ambitious unit of SESA football academy from the host state of Goa.
The Sanquelim based academy from the host state has finally made its way to the group stages of the Durand cup after getting the better of AIFF in a nail biting finish. SESA Academy, under the guidance of Clifford Chukwuma has had a forgettable domestic season in Go, with Vedanta backed side languishing at the seventh place in theGoa pro League table. The side from Panaji did manage to once again enter into the group stages of the Durand Cup. SESA has never won the cup and the sides’ chances of lifting the coveted silverware is anything but bleak from a very interesting group. SESA’s main problem lies in the defense, which has been guilty of leaking in goals.The goan side has so far conceded thirteen goals in nine matches and the trend was kept alive in the preliminary round as well. SESA won three ( including a walkover) and lost to Laxmi Prasad during the first phase.
Key Players :- Alber Gonsalves, J Vaz.
The legendary club from Kolkata has had quite a year. After all the big money signings last summer, the Black Panthers clinched their first Durand Cup after 70 yrs and announced their arrival on the big stage. But as the season rolled, the sides’ challenge fizzed out and Md. Sporting was relegated from the top division, once again. Since then the club has seen a downfall of sorts- wherein the players left amidst financial troubles. This edition of the Durand Cup could be a major stepping stone towards a major rebuild plan. The Black Panthers finished fourth in the this years Kolkata Football league, loosing two and drawing two. The club has some good quality budding Indian players with only one foreigner in the squad in Oluwaunmi Somide Adelja. The club might miss the charisma and pace of Tolgay upfront and Penn Orji in the middle but rest of the players mostly remain the same. The versatile left back Dhanarajan will once again lead the team from the back and hope to lift the trophy again.
Key Players :- Gagandeep Singh, Samson Ramengmawia, R Dhanarajan
The I-league champions Bengaluru FC are looking to make a sensational debut in the Durand Cup this year. The club did not release it’s players for the ongoing ISL and will have most of their players available in Goa. Instead, Ashley Westwood’s side went on a pre-season tour to Hong Kong and China. Westwood targeted these friendlies against top Asian sides to test his side as they gear up to compete in the continental competitions. Westwood would be definitely eyeing the Durand Cup to put in some solid performances with a dash of experiments with some young players. Bengaluru FC has managed to retain all of their players so far plus added some more artillery to their arsenal. ( read Josh Walker, former u-2 England Captain) .
Key Players :- Sean Rooney , Darren Caldeira, CK Vineth.
Bengaluru FC, albeit making their debut- will be out and out favorites to win the group and proceed, owning to their spectrum of players. But SESA FA and Mohammedan Sporting would like to have a say in that. Both the clubs flaunt recent history in the competition and definitely have players to spring in a surprise. SESA FA would be at home, in front of their splendid home crowd, and would be raring to go in .