The 65th edition of the National Football Championship for the Santosh Trophy will kick-off tomorrow across Assam and will finish on May 30 with the final in Guwahati with 34 teams in action. 30 time record winners West Bengal are the defending champions, who had won last years title by beating Punjab at home.
But this years Santosh Trophy will not see India's top players in the tournament with the I-league and 2nd Division I-League simultaneously in action. Due to this fact the tournament will be a platform for fringe players and talented youngsters to show themselves. Ideally some will get scouted by top clubs.
And for this reason to name favourites would be very difficult as the big football states will come with rather inexperienced sides though it looks likely that West Bengal and Goa besides the Northeastern states could take home the title. The hosts Assam have high expectations from their team and would do whatever they can to win the title for the first time, but it would be a real upset if their team can achieve it.
The Cluster round matches would be played from May 6 to 16 with the quarterfinal round games scheduled from May 17 to 24. The semifinals would be played on May 26/27, while the final has been slated for May 30.
Cluster I and V matches would be played in Guwahati, Cluster II in Mangaldoi, Cluster III in Shivsagar, Cluster IV in Tinsukia, while Cluster VI in Nagaon, VIII in Bongaigaon and VIII in Kokrajhar. From the quarterfinals onwards the matches would be played only in Guwahati.
Meanwhile Cluster III has been reduced to a three team affair after Andhra Pradesh were scraped from the competition by the AIFF as there are two factions within Andhra Pradesh football with both sides having tried to send squads to the tournament. A massive loss for the footballers from Andhra Pradesh, a sad situation report is to follow on my blog.
Preliminary Round Clusters
Cluster 1: Assam, Pondicherry, Rajasthan
Cluster 2: Chhattisgarh, Daman&Diu, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh
Cluster 3: Manipur, Bihar, Andaman&Nicobar
Cluster 4: Kerala, Jammu&Kashmir, Jharkhand, Chandigarh
Cluster 5: Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Services, Arunachal Pradesh
Cluster 6: Delhi, Nagaland, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh
Cluster 7: Mizoram, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura
Cluster 8: Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Railways, Sikkim