The legacy of this historic tournament, named after Sir Henry Mortimer Durand was to encourage the value of sports as a means to maintain health among the British Indian Army slowly became the 3rd oldest existing professional club football in the world and the Oldest existing football tournament in Asia. The very first edition of the tournament started in 1888 at Annadale, Shimla. A storyline that is nothing short of a thriller movie. From the 3 trophies awarded to the winners of the tournament, to be one of the oldest tournaments in the world, Durand Cup has been unique and special in many ways.
The tournament was initially reserved only to the British Indian Army, the regular Army, and other military units such as provincial frontier-security regiments and the volunteer regiments of the reserves. However, It failed to catch its attention among the native soldiers, who preferred field hockey over football (an exception to this were the Nepal origin Gurkha brigades). But that was only until football became the universal sport as it is today. The inaugural final of the tournament, in 1888, was a Scottish Derby, with the first name etched on the trophy being the “Royal Scots Fusiliers”.
In 1940, the tournament opened its doors to civilian teams to maintain the level of competition and was permanently relocated to New Delhi. This saw Mohammedan Sporting Club creating history by emerging as the first civilian team to win the tournament at the Irwin Amphitheater in 1940. Following India’s independence and Partition in 1947, efforts were made to shift the tournament to the newly formed Pakistan. But, strong resistance from the three Service Chiefs and the Defense Secretary of India ensured that the Durand Cup remains a part of Indian football. Since then the tournament was hosted by the Durand Football Tournament Society, a registered society at Delhi presided by the Chief of Defense Staff (India) and chaired by the three Service Chiefs of Indian Armed Forces. In 2021 the Armed Forces decided to host the tournament in West Bengal, jointly with the Government of West Bengal, till 2025.
The First Edition of Durand Cup Tournament
With the eclipse of high-profile teams of Hyderabad Police and Madras Regimental Centre since 1970, East Bengal Club and Mohun Bagan AC dominated the tournament with 32 cup victories over the years (16 wins each). Mohun Bagan consecutively winning in 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1984, 1985, 1986 when East Bengal marked the dominance by winning 1989, 1990, 1991.
In the early 2000s, we saw contenders from Goa catching up with the pace. Salgaocar making the presence felt with most appearances without ever losing in 1999, 2003, 2014. And, Churchill Brothers FC Goa winning the tournament three times (2007, 2009, and 2011) and narrowly missed a hat-trick victory, as they had to settle as runners-up in 2008. Kerala also has its name etched on the trophy through FC Kochin in 1997 and Gokulam Kerala FC in 2019.
Dr.Rajendra Prasad, first president of India awarding the trophy to Chunni Goswami
The tournament is conducted in a round-robin format at the group phase and a knock-out format as the team advances. The winning team is presented with three trophies: The Durand Cup, The President’s Cup, and The Shimla Trophy (first presented by citizens of Shimla in 1903, rolling trophy since 1965)The Durand Cup: In 1965, the Durand Football Tournament Society declared The Durand Cup as a rolling trophy. Since then the winning team kept the trophy for a year and returned it before the next edition. The President’s Cup: Presented for the first time by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India. This trophy was given to the winning team permanently. It is designed with a circular disc atop the Ashoka Lion Capital. The Shimla Trophy: By 1903, the Shimla locals were hugely attached to the historic tournament and the carnival it brought with it. The public donated to present another rolling trophy to the winning team and therefore the name Shimla Trophy.
The tournament was suspended in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And re-started as the pre-season knock-out tournament for India’s football clubs from all divisions before the start of the Indian domestic football season this year.
The Presidents Cup, The Durand Cup, and The Simla trophy
It’s a debut for the Men in Yellow in the prestigious Durand Cup. Our boys started their preseason camp in Kochi during the first week of August. The team has a perfect blend of youth and experience in all departments. Enes Sipovic adding experience and strength to the defense line and Adrian Luna adding more power to the Midfield engine while Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Chencho Gyeltshen are at the frontline. Ayush Adhikari and Sreekuttan have become vital cog after their performances in the pre-season matches ahead of the Durand Cup. Hormipam Ruivah, Sanjeev Stalin, Vincy Barretto, and Harmanjot Khabra have also displayed their dominance. Being one of the only two teams sending their first team for the tournament and being in a strong group (Bengaluru FC, Delhi FC, and Indian Navy being the other teams in the group) in a competitive tournament, the Durand cup will act as a catalyst for the pre-season preparation for the Yellow Army.