Mohun Bagan will kick off the Durabd Cup 2019, as the historic tournament returns after a gap of three years. World’s third and Asia’s oldest football tournament will see Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting Club fighting it out at the Vivekananda Yuvabharati Kriangan Salt Lake in Kolkata on the opening day of 2nd August.
Returning after a three-year respite, the 129th edition of Durand Cup will be played outside the traditional venue of New Delhi for the first time. The tournament will see 16 teams from the I-League, Indian Super League (ISL) and the defense services vouching for the glory.
“We took a three-year gap to make it more attractive. Kolkata is the mecca of Indian football. So, it’s an effort to revamp the tournament and make it a pan-India affair,” Lt Gen RP Kalita, Chief of Staff, HQ Eastern Command told reporters here.
Former I-League champions Minerva Punjab and ISL franchise Kerala Blasters will be missing the tournament which also features a second-division club in the form of Mohammedan Sporting Club. However, given the tussle going on in the All India Football Federation between the I-League clubs and ISL, Durand Cup comes as a refresher in which teams from both the league will play alongside each other.
The ISL franchises, though, may not send their full-strength teams as they have cited some issues relating to the transfer window. The ISL clubs generally assemble their teams by August-end or September. “We couldn’t further delay the tournament as it would have clashed with the Calcutta Football League. So we are happy that the teams are coming and the tournament will happen,” the Chief of Staff added.
In the last General Body meeting of AIFF it has been decided that for the next three years India will have two leagues running parallelly. The meeting, which was supposed to give a permanent solution to the I-League vs ISL debate and give a clear image of whether or not both the league would be merged, gave ISL teams the slot for AFC Champions League qualifiers. Thus, the winner of the ISL would be playing in the qualifiers of Asia’s elite club tournament, equivalent to UEFA Champions League. Though ISL has not been declared the official first division league, generally the clubs from their country’s respective top-tier league get the chance to play in the continental tournament. This has enraged the I-League clubs to a major extent with many threatening AIFF to move the court.
The tournament will be played in five venues across the state of West Bengal, with three in Kolkata, one in Kalyani and the other in Siliguri. Here’s a list of all the teams playing.
Group A- East Bengal, Army Red, Jamshedpur FC, Bengaluru FC
Group B- Mohun Bagan, Mohammedan Soprting, ATK, Indian Navy
Group C- Chennai City FC, Real Kashmir, FC Goa, Army Green
Group D- Chennaiyin FC, Gokulam Kerala, TRAU, Indian Air Force