Durand cup kicks off from today | sports | Hindustan Times
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Durand cup kicks off from today

The Durand Cup, Delhi’s coveted gem in the erstwhile Triple Crown of Indian football (the other two being Mumbai’s Rovers Cup and the IFA Shield in Kolkata) will kick-off its preliminary phase on Saturday at the Ambedkar Stadium.

sports Updated: Sep 23, 2011 22:50 IST
Tomojit Basu

The Durand Cup, Delhi’s coveted gem in the erstwhile Triple Crown of Indian football (the other two being Mumbai’s Rovers Cup and the IFA Shield in Kolkata) will kick-off its preliminary phase on Saturday at the Ambedkar Stadium. The tournament, first held in Shimla in 1888, is the third oldest football tournament in the world — after the FA Cup and Scottish Cup — but enters its 124th edition more as a prestigious relic than the forum of worthy competition it was once renowned for.

With, arguably, three of India’s biggest clubs — Dempo, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan — all skipping the Durand this year, a competitive flair will be missed. However, this provides an opportunity for the other I-League representatives to put on a show and earn valuable silverware ahead of the league season, which commences on October 22.

PURPLE PRIDE
A sole Mohammad Rafique strike won Chirag United their first national title at this competition last year. Notably, they had also brought East Bengal’s juggernaut-ish 18-game winning streak to a halt in the semis. All eyes will, thus, be on the men in purple in their new Prayag United avatar.

“For now, my only target is Monday’s Federation Cup semifinal (against East Bengal) and I’m not thinking about the Durand Cup at the moment,” said Prayag coach Sanjay Sen, adding, “The expectations are there but we have to take it as just another tournament and if we win, as just another feather in our cap,” he said.

I-League IV champions Salgaocar, Pune FC and Churchill Brothers form the top brass who will look to rain on Prayag’s parade. Former India team skipper Bhaichung Bhutia’s United Sikkim FC (USFC) will be making their Durand Cup debut. Bhutia, co-owner of the outfit, was confident of a good showing of his band of merry men which includes national team stalwarts Renedy Singh and Sushil Singh among others.