The Durand Cup is back after a hiatus of 3 years. The tournament has only been a reflection of its glorious past in the recent past and has been pushed to the fringes of the Indian Football Season. But with a revamped structure this time around, the organisers hope to regain some of that lost glory.
What's new this season?
#1 Being hosted in West Bengal for the first time
The last time the tournament moved outside of Delhi was in the year 2014 when the matches were held in Goa. The tournament will make its debut in this football-crazy part of the country with matches being held at Howrah, Kalyani and Kolkata.
#2 Wide participation from I-League and ISL clubs.
For the first time, the competition will see participation from ISL teams. Though they are likely to field their reserve teams as most first-team players are not available, but this will add immensely to the profile of the tournament and attract eyeballs from a wide variety of fans from all over the country. The tournament will also feature 4 armed forces team namely Indian Air Force, Army Green, Army Red and Indian Navy.
#3 Increased fan engagement
The tournament will be a 16 team affair with matches being played in 5 different stadiums across Bengal. The first Kolkata derby may take place in the tournament if both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal made it to the final. The tickets have been economically priced and the organizers hope decent footfalls. The Group D matches were shifted out of Siliguri because the ground conditions were not up to the mark after heavy rains lashed the north of Bengal. The other venues are VYBK, Mohunbagan Stadium, East Bengal Stadium and Kalyani Stadium.
The tournament promises to be a perfect season opener for both the teams and fans. However, scheduling issues have ruffled a few feathers as the Calcutta Football League will run alongside the Tournament and the Kolkata team physios will be working overtime to keep players fit. The organizers hope that the revamped tournament will help to bring back the lost glory of the Durand Cup.