5 things you must know about the prestigious Nadkarni Cup


The 109th Nadkarni Cup is all set to kick off from today when hosts Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers (RCF) clash with Great Mother Sports Club (G.M.S.C) at the RCF Sports Complex in Chembur. The Nadkarni Cup is one of the oldest tournaments in Indian football and holds great prestige in Mumbai’s football fraternity.

The Nadkarni Cup in its 109 year old history has produced the most dramatic moments in Mumbai Football history and every player which has been affiliated with any football club in Mumbai holds a special place for this tournament in their hearts.

With this vintage football tournament entering its one more new edition, we take a look at five facts about the Nadkarni Cup, which every football fan in the city must know.

1. Birth as a Rovers Cup for school & college teams in Mumbai

The Junior Rovers Cup, which was a version of the Rovers Cup for school and college teams in the city was initiated in the year 1908. The late Mr. Ghanashyam Nadkarni provided the trophy for this tournament. The tournament featured school teams from the city and Bombay Education Society High School, Byculla defeated St. Mary’s College, Byculla 1-0 in the first final in 1908. The tournament ran successfully for six straight years before it was curtailed in 1914 due to World War One.  In these six years, the Junior Rovers Cup trophy never went out of Byculla as St. Mary’s College and B.E.S School exchanged hands on the trophy.

2. Re-birth in 1925 as the Nadkarni Cup

In the year 1925, the Western India Football Association (W.I.F.A) initiated a new trophy for ‘purely Indian teams’ and named it after the late Mr. Ghanashyam Neelkanth Nadkarni who had initially provided the trophy for the Junior Rovers Cup. Since 1925, the Nadkarni Cup has been regularly held annually apart from a period between 1992 to 2001 when the trophy wasn’t held due to disputes between B.D.F.A (now M.D.F.A) and W.I.F.A. However the tournament was once again revived in 2001 and since has been played every year without any interruptions.

3. Mumbai missed out on the maiden Nadkarni Cup crown

Surprisingly a tournament which forms a large part of Mumbai’s footballing history wasn’t won by a Mumbai based club in its first year as the Nadkarni Cup. It was a team from Hyderabad known as Qamer Club who have the honour of being the first Champions of the Nadkarni Cup. The Hyderabad outfit prevailed over Matunga Hindus 2-1 in a dramatic final in 1925 and etched their name into the history books of this illustrious competition. Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute were the first winners of the Nadkarni Cup from Mumbai in the following year when they beat Colaba Casuals 2-0 in a replay after a 0-0 draw in the first game.

4. Share of spoils and familiar beneficiaries 

The Nadkarni Cup has been shared only four times in its 109 year history and the share of spoils happened four times in a decade. The first share of the honours took place in the year 1975, before the trophy was shared for three years in a row from the year 1980 to 1982. Coincidentally on four out of the three occasions the trophy was shared between Tata Sports Club and Mafatlal Group. In fact the first three times when there had to be joint winners it was always Tata Sports Club and Mafatlal Group who shared the honours, while in 1982, Tata Sports Club shred the Nadkarni Cup with R.C.F, which was the club’s first ever triumph in the Nadkarni Cup. RCF who have hosted the tournament for several years have since won the competition three more times.

5. Play till you win. Nadkarni Cup’s two marathon Finals

The Nadkarni Cup has always been a coveted prize and teams have fought till the very end to get their hands on the cup, resulting in tight games and tighter finals. Over the years, there have been different ways a tie has been resolved in the Nadkarni Cup, but twice in the history of the competition, the winners have had to go an extra mile to bask in the ultimate glory. Firstly in the year 1939, Young Goans FC and South Kanara had to go through four final matches to decide the eventual winners. With the first game abandoned due to crowd invasion on the pitch, the game was replayed but the game ended in goalless draw and had to played once again, only for the outcome to be repeated. However in the fourth final of what turned out be a series, Young Goans cruised to a 4-0 win over South Kanara to lift their third successive Nadkarni Trophy. One has to admire the desire and hunger of the Young Goans to fight out till the very end despite having already won the tournament twice in its previous two years.

This was repeated once again in 1956, when Central Railways took on Caltex FC with the first encounter ending in a thrilling 2-2 draw. The first replay was a rather drab 0-0 draw, but the third replay was as good as any game as the two sides played out a sensational 4-4 draw, before Central Railways ran out 1-0 winners in the fourth Final.

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