The 124th edition of the Durand Cup, India's oldest and the world's third oldest football tournament, kicked-off on Saturday with the qualifiers while the tournament proper will be held from October 4 to 15. The biggest change this year is the increase in prize money and top clubs missing the tournament.
"We have increased the prize money and the overall budget of the tournament," said Maj Gen Manvinder Singh, GOC Delhi area and chairman of Standing Working Committee of Durand Football Tournament Society who assured that the next edition will be bigger and better than this one with the preliminary rounds to be held outside Delhi.
The champions would receive Rs 2 Million (20 lakhs), the runners-up Rs 1 Million (10 lakhs) and third place team Rs 500,000 (5 lakh). Last years winners had received only Rs. 500,000. Meanwhile the overall budget of the tournament has increased from Rs 4,3 Million (43 lakhs) to Rs 15,4 Million (1,54 crore) and next year the organising committee wants to organise an even bigger and better tournament on the 125th anniversary.
In the ongoing qualifiers 20 clubs are playing for the two qualifying spots. Amongst them are four Regimental Teams from the Army, one team each from the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, two Delhi sides (Delhi United, Shahdara FC), five Paramilitary sides (Border Security Force, CRPF, Assam Rifles, Punjab Police, Uttarakhand Police), two PSU teams (State Bank of India, Hyderabad; State Bank of Travancore), I-League sides (Sporting Clube de Goa, Shillong Lajong FC) and 2nd Division I-League clubs (Mohamedan Sporting Club), Kolkata side (Bhowanipore Club) and the Tata Football Academy.
But missing from the quarterfinal league stage will be record champions Mohun Bagan AC and East Bengal Club along with Goan giants Dempo SC. The trio had different reasons for opting out of the Durand Cup this year. In the quarterfinal league stage the teams will be spread into four groups of three teams each with two teams making it from the qualifiers. The winners qualify for the semifinals to be played on October 12, while the final will be played on October 15.
From the quarterfinal league onwards DD Sports will be showing the matches live which will be played at the Ambedkar Stadium under floodlights.
Group 1 Prayag United SC, Salgaocar SC, Qualifier A
Group 2 Mumbai FC, Sikkim United FC, Qualifier B
Group 3 Pune FC, Air India, ONGC
Group 4 Hindustan Aeronautics Limited SC, Churchill Brothers SC, Army Red