As soon as A Jewel In India’s Soccer Crown, Why Poor Organisation Has Tarnished Durand Cup’s Picture | Outlook India Journal
Sporting custom the world over is essentially held sacrosanct, and fie upon anybody who dares to interrupt it. In India, such issues are trampled upon with breezy impunity by haughty officers and organisers. Durand Cup, the world’s third oldest soccer match, has run into controversy by the transfer to shift Asia’s oldest championship away from its pure house, Delhi. The one hundred and thirtieth version, supported by the West Bengal authorities and the state’s soccer affiliation (IFA), is being performed in Calcutta earlier than galleries rendered barren as a result of pandemic. The transfer has created real heartburn in Delhi, with old-timers saying the military, the custodians of Durand, has pierced soccer lovers within the capital with a “bullet in the heart”.
For over half a century, Durand, Rovers and IFA Protect had been the blue riband tournaments of Indian soccer. Every match was synonymous with the town that hosted it. If the IFA Protect was Calcutta’s pleasure, Rovers meant Mumbai and Durand was Delhi’s jewel within the crown. As a nip within the air presaged the arrival of winter within the plains of north India, the Ambedkar Stadium could be all abustle with exercise as India’s high golf equipment would arrive within the capital to re-kindle a permanent romance nurtured by the gorgeous recreation.
For over 50 years after Partition, Durand was a roaring affair. Named after Sir Mortimer Durand, the erstwhile overseas secretary of British India, it began in 1888 in Shimla. In 1940, the match moved to Delhi. The town’s love for the competitors grew stronger after 1947, when Pakistan was thwarted from taking Durand away. The three service chiefs and India’s defence secretary had been instrumental in holding Durand in India; thus did the military turn into its pure caretakers. A physique, Durand Soccer Match Society (DFTS), was shaped to run the Cup.
Since 2000, Durand Cup ran with no glitch until 2016. East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, who’ve gained 32 championship titles between them, had been a relentless presence. In 2014, for the primary time since 1940, Durand was moved out of Delhi to Goa. Salgaocar gained it that 12 months. For the reason that middle-noughties, Durand Cup began shedding its significance within the Indian soccer calendar. Whereas different legacy tournaments like Rovers and DCM died, Durand managed to remain afloat, however solely simply. As corporates wooed a weak nationwide federation with profitable contracts, the previous, all-India tournaments suffered. Durand was not held in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
Durand Cup resumed in 2019 in Calcutta. Gokulam, the I-League champions, gained the trophy, defeating Mohun Bagan. As a result of pandemic, Durand was cancelled in 2020; the military went again to Bengal for not solely this 12 months, however until 2025, saying Calcutta had higher infrastructure to supply. A military spokesman says: “The chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, extended full support during a meeting with senior army officers and all government bodies like health, transport and sports extended their support to the tournament.”
Durand Then & Now
Left, an action-packed Durand Cup match in Delhi’s Ambedkar Stadium in 1996; Mamata Banerjee meets gamers earlier than a match in Calcutta
However why Calcutta, asks Soccer Delhi’s president, Shaji Prabhakaran. Is Delhi’s Covid administration poorer? Is there scarcity of infrastructure? “I am not sure if the DFTS approached the Delhi government for assistance. Football Delhi is a member of Durand Cup society and nobody asked for our help. To cut off a 75-year-old bond that developed between Delhi fans and Durand Cup certainly hurts. We will be happy to join hands,” says Prabhakaran.
Veteran soccer journalist Jaydeep Basu says DFTS’s resolution to maneuver the Durand Cup to Calcutta is a transparent indication of its failure to organise and run a profitable match. “The army may be great at fighting wars, but I’m sorry to say that when it comes to organising football, the current batch of people has been a disappointment. They have no clue about Indian football and have ignored the passion of football lovers in Delhi. To suddenly say that Delhi does not have football infrastructure, after it staged the Durand Cup successfully for 50 years at a jam-packed Ambedkar Stadium, is just ridiculous,” he says.
Ghaus Mohammed, who performed the Durand Cup for seven years, officiated as an assistant referee for 2 years and later commentated on 25 Durand finals reside on Doordarshan, says the transfer to Calcutta will demotivate a number of groups that performed within the Delhi league. “Teams like Moonlight, Buddhist Blue Stars and Simla Youngs used to wait for the Durand and compete with big sides like Mohammedan Sporting. This has been a great loss to Delhi football,” says Ghaus.
Durand Cup has attracted 16 groups this 12 months. 5 of those are Indian Tremendous League groups and embrace former ISL champions Bengaluru FC and finalists FC Goa and Kerala Blasters. There are two Delhi groups from the 2 tiers of the I-League—Sudeva FC and Delhi FC. Gokulam of Kerala have returned to defend their title and Mohammedan Sporting, the primary Indian staff to win the cup in 1940, are the one native Calcutta staff within the fray. With matches being performed in empty stadiums, followers can solely watch them on-line.
V.C. Praveen of Gokulam says: “There should be more tournaments. At present, major tournaments are confined to one or two states. This has to change. Every state should host a tournament each. We would love to play in the capital. There should be more football in Delhi.”
Each Ghaus and Basu level out main flaws within the DFTS’s present functioning. Earlier, the society was a everlasting physique, with officers keenly following Indian soccer and welcoming groups on benefit. “Now, officers from different regiments are posted for three years and with no knowledge of football, they find Durand difficult to organise. The dynamics of football have changed a lot now and hence the officers struggle,” says Basu. Ghaus says the society isn’t any extra a unified drive. The air drive runs the Subroto Cup efficiently, however has nothing to do with Durand. “Everyone seems to be completing an assignment. There is no real heart like before and hence it’s easy to cut the umbilical cord,” he says.
No massive Indian match is full with out the star attraction of Mohun Bagan or East Bengal, however Durand organisers, even with the state authorities’s assist, haven’t succeeded in getting the large two play on this version. “It’s a shame really. Mohun Bagan, now a corporate entity after joining the ISL, have the arrogance to send their players on a holiday after the AFC Cup matches and skip the Calcutta Football League and the Durand. The club has turned its back on millions of supporters,” says Basu. East Bengal are at present placing a staff collectively after checking out main variations with their sponsors, courtesy Mamata Banerjee’s intervention.
Former India captain Baichung Bhutia feels Durand shifting to Calcutta is a strategic transfer. “There is nothing wrong if the interest of the tournament is served. I would imagine that they are banking on the Bengal government and the IFA to rope in the big three clubs every time. If the big three don’t play next year, Durand should go back to Delhi where it originally belongs….,” says Bhutia.
(This appeared within the print version as “Foul In The Penalty Box”)