For the first ever, the state of Manipur is all set to co-host the 131st edition of the Durand Cup, the oldest football tournament in Asia and for the same, chief minister, N Biren Singh, on Wednesday unveiled the three trophies of the tournament as it reached Imphal at the City Convention Centre in Imphal East.
The three trophies are the President’s Cup (presented by India’s first President, Rajendra Prasad); the Durand Cup (a rolling trophy and the original prize) and Shimla Trophy (presented for the first time by the citizens of Shimla in 1903 and also a rolling trophy). The tournament is organised by the Indian Army on behalf of the Indian Armed Forces.
Chief Minister Biren, who had played in the Durand Cup in 1981 as a left-wing defender for the BSF and won the trophy, said, “Durand Cup happening in the state is like walking down the memory lane of 1981. The cup is very close to my heart.”
Expressing gratitude to the Indian Army and the organising committee for bringing the iconic tournament to the football passionate state (Manipur), he said it is indeed a great matter of pride and privilege for Manipur to host the tournament.
The people of Manipur, being passionate about sport and nationalist, have become a leading producer of Indian Super League (ISL) players with as many as 40-45 players and also has the highest per capita officers and personnel in the Armed forces of the country, said Biren.
“At first, I was worried that the state might not be able to host the iconic cup due to lack of infrastructures, however, with the tireless effort of YAS Minister, Govindas Konthoujam, and officials, the state will now be able to host the Durand Cup,” he revealed.
The chief minister also appealed to the people of the state to witness and enjoy the match and called for supporting and encouraging the players and organisers of the Durand Cup which have brought the game to the state to provide exposure.
Informing that LIVE telecast of the matches will not be provided in order to encourage live on spot spectators, the CM said that the ticket of the matches will be made available at reasonable prices.
Wishing the Durand Cup and the players a grand success, Biren assured to provide all possible assistance and support from the Manipur government to make the tournament bigger and more successful from the previous ones.
Chairman of the Durand Organising Committee, Lieutenant General KK Repswal, who is also the Chief of Staff, said that the Durand Cup is the oldest football tournament in Asia and is officially recognised as the second qualifying cup for Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup.
The tournament is brought to Manipur as the state has a great passion and love for football, he said, adding, “Witnessing the support and cooperation of the state government, media fraternity and the public, we will be able to restore the legacy of the cup in Manipur.”
The 131st edition of the Cup will be played in the three states of Manipur, Assam and West Bengal. In the state of Manipur, a total of 10 group games will be played at Khuman Lampak Main Stadium in Imphal East from August 18 to September 5.
Altogether 20 teams, including defending champions FC Goa and runners up from last year, Mohammedan Sporting, 11 teams from the ISL, four services team, NEROCA FC, TRAU FC, SUDEVA FC of Delhi and Rajasthan United FC will be playing in the 131st edition of the Durand Cup. NEROCA FC and TRAU FC are the football clubs based in Imphal.