The Durand Cup is India’s oldest football tournament. It is also the oldest football tournament in Asia and the third-oldest in the world after the English and the Scottish FA Cups. The Durand cup began in the year 1988. The tournament is titled after its founder, Sir Mortimer Durand, who was then, the Foreign Secretary, to the British Government of India. The tournament was initiated in Shimla, as recreational event for the British troops, stationed in India and only teams from the various army regiments were allowed to participate. The Durand Cup has another unique feature, the winner of the competition is presented 3 trophies, The President’s Cup, first awarded by Shri Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, is awarded permanently to the winning team, The Durand Cup, the original prize, which is a rolling trophy, the Shimla Trophy, which was first presented by the residents of Shimla in the year 1904, and is also a rolling trophy since 1965.
The Durand Cup which is being held in Delhi since 1940, has been shifted to Goa. The organizers feel that this move is likely to increase public attention and increase the quality of the tournament. But that is unlikely to happen because of the following reasons:
Poor timing of the tournament
The Durand Cup is scheduled to take place from 28th October to 9th November. This means that the tournament is going to clash with the inaugural edition of the Indian Soccer League (ISL), which is scheduled to kick off on 12th October. All the top Indian players have rich contracts with the Indian Soccer League and are thus likely to stay away from the Durand Cup this year. This will largely diminish the attraction of the Durand Cup. And with names like Salman Khan, John Abraham, Sachin Tendulkar, Ranbir Kapoor, Sourav Ganguly and Mukesh Ambani associated with the Indian Soccer League, the Durand Cup is also unlikely to draw any media attention, which will be swept away by the ISL.
Unavailabilty of Goa’s best stadiums
The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, probably Goa’s best football stadium, will not be available for the Durand Cup, as it has been booked for the Indian Soccer League. The Tilak Maidan has also been booked as a practise ground for the ISL and hence will also be unavailable. The Durand Cup is thus, likely to be held at the Duler Stadium at Mapusa. The maximum capacity of the Duler Stadium is 10,000, which is just half of the capacity of the Ambedkar Stadium in Delhi, where the tournament has been held ever since 1940. The stands on one side of the Duler stadium have no shades on top and the people sitting there would have to bear the brunt of the hot burning sun or get drenched in case of heavy showers. The stadium thus can hardly accommodate 6000 people comfortably. The Duler Stadium also has an artificial surface, whose quality has been questioned in the past.
Goa’s hot and humid weather
The weather in Goa is quite hot and humid in October, which is not ideal for good, high speed football. The Duler Stadium lacks floodlights. This means that the matches are likely to be held in the afternoons, when the heat is going to be maximum. The artificial turfs like the one at Duler, tend to absorb heat. This will worsen the conditions for the players. Durand Cup’s tight schedule will mean that players will have less recovery time, which is very essential as the matches held in these hot and humid conditions will take a lot out of the body of the players. All these factors might lead to severe injuries to players.
Low crowd turnout in Goa
According to Elvis Gomes, vice-president of the Goa Football Association “The organizers feel the tournament is not getting the support it deserves in Delhi and hence alternative venues are being sourced. Since Goa has massive interest in football, it became the ideal destination”. Yes football is very popular in Goa, and the fact that Goan clubs have won 7 of the last 8 I-Leagues, is testimony to it. But matches held in Goa have not always seen good crowd turnout and I-League 2013-14 is an example of that. According to the I-League’s official website, in the 2013-14 I-League the average number of spectators per home match for Dempo was only 2542, for Churchill it was 2450, it was 2421 for Salgaocar and just 1608 for Sporting Club De Goa. The Durand Cup is not the India’s biggest football tournament like the I-League. India’s best footballers are going to give this year’s Durand Cup a miss. Also the matches are going to be held in the hot afternoons. The average crowd turnout for the Durand Cup is hence, expected to be even lower than these numbers of the I-League, taking all these factors into account.
The Connect With Delhi
Durand Cup has a special place in Delhi just like the Rovers Cup in Mumbai or the IFA Shield in Kolkata. The Kolkata giants always make it a point to play in the IFA Shield despite their cramped schedule and the tournament always attracts large crowd. Also, teams like Mohammedan Sporting have very good supporter base in Delhi which was evident in a packed stadium when they played the final last year but in Goa they won’t the same level of support. Moreover the Durand Cup was the only opportunity for the football lovers in the capital to get a taste of top level Indian Football and the void would certainly be felt
Written by Guest Author Srijan Bhattacharya