A look at the Football Tournaments of India

In the Country so obsessed with Cricket, the fact that some of the world’s oldest football tournaments are played in India undermine the rich legacy of the game.

IFA Shield, Durand Cup, Federation Cup, Santosh Trophy, Indian Super Cup and Subroto Cup are some of the major competitive tournaments played out in the country.

Over the years, these tournaments have lost its original glory, some of them having been ignored entirely, while some lost its star value. The 2016 edition of India’s Oldest and world third oldest tournament Durand Cup witnessed an exciting finale despite missing out star teams or established teams unlike previous edition. It proved, not for the first time that little teams can make a huge difference if given a constant opportunity. Despite few I league clubs like Dempo, DSK Shivajians, Aizawl FC participating in the tournaments, it was two first timers that reached the final which was well received by the crowd who came out in full to the stadiums.

With the future of Indian football league still filled with doubts, lack of proper time for the organizations, the survival of these historic leagues may fall on new teams. A look into some of the India’s top or the ‘once’ top tournaments:

Durand Cup  

Durand Tournament

Being one of the oldest tournaments in the world, it always had a following right from the pre-Independence days. The Tournament is named after its founder, Sir Mortimer Durand, Foreign Secretary in charge of India from 1884 to 1894.  Having become conscious of the value of sport as a means to maintain health, he decided to present a prize to encourage sporting competition in India. At first it was effectively an Army cup, and largely the preserve of the British Indian Army troops in India, but over the years it widened its appeal and opened up to civilian teams, until it became a more open and conventional sporting contest. The final major administrative change was when the Army passed on the actual running of the Tournament to a civilian administration in 2006. The Army presence is maintained by the participation of several military teams, including an Army green, which won the recent competition.

128th Durand football tournament saw Army Green come out victorious against a very spirited Neroca FC (Manipur) 6-5 in a penalty shoot-out. Both the Teams were so even that after the final ended goalless in regulation time and thirty minutes of extra time, regular five penalties also ended at 4-4 with the shoot-out then going into sudden death.

However, in the sudden death came the decisive moment when Neroca’s experienced defender Govin Singh hit the post with his attempt while Army substitute Bikram Adhikari calmly stepped up and placed the ball to the left of goalkeeper Lalit Thapa to give Army Green victory much to the delight of the jawans, who had gathered in mass at the Ambedkar stadium to cheer for them.

IFA Shield

Came into existence in 1893 and named after the Association, the IFA Shield Tournament is India’s one of the oldest football tournament and the fourth oldest Cup in the world. During the initial years, the IFA Shield was always won by British army teams. However, that changed in 1911, when Mohun Bagan Athletic Club became the first Indian team to win the IFA Shield by defeating East Yorkshire Regiment 2-1. Being the Pre-Independence era, that became a historic moment for Indian football community, as the natives beat the Englishmen at their own game.

East Bengal F.C. hasIFA shield Tournaments won the IFA Shield 29 times, while their archrivals – Mohun Bagan have won it 22 times.

Involvement of foreign teams has been one of the USPs of IFA Shield. East Bengal’s win over Pas club was first victory of an Indian club over a foreign club since 1947. Pyong Yong City Club from North Korea, Finance and Revenue F.C., Myanmar, , Shenzhen Ruby F.C. from China, South African Santos FC are few of the big name foreign clubs that took part in the tournament.

Clubs from abroad have enjoyed considerable success in the tournament. Peñarol F.C. is the most renowned football club to have ever played in India. They defeated Shakhtar Donetsk – Soviet champions in 1983. In 1993, another all-foreigner final saw Pakhtakor Tashkent, the most successful Uzbek club, defeat Pavlodar F.C., the most successful Kazakh club after a tie-breaker. Bayern Munich reserve team, coached by the legendary Gerd Müllerr to captured the Shield in 2005.

Since 2015, The IFA decided to designed the tournament as an under-19 youth football tournament. The decision was taken due to the busy schedule of AIFF which includes Indian Super League, I-League and Fed Cup.

Subroto Cup

Named after the Indian Air Force Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee, Subroto Cup Football Tournament is one of the famous inter-school football tournaments in India. The tournament was started in 1960, with participation of about 50 school teams with even schools from Nepal and Afghanistan participating over the years. Since 1998, the tournament is played in two age groups, sub-Junior (U14) and Junior (U17). Madhyamgram High School, WEST BENGAL is famous for winning this tournament (U17) for 7 times in total including a hatrick in year 1981-82-83

Tournaments

Brazilian football legend Pele waves to his fans before the start of the Under-17 boys final match of the Subroto Cup

Brazilian legend and football’s elder statesman Pele graced the tournament with his presence in India after accepting an invitation to attend the final of the 56th edition of the Subroto Cup as its chief guest.

Santosh Trophy

Santosh Trophy is an annual Indian football tournament contested between states and government institutions. The first winners were Bengal, who also lead the all-time winners list with 31 titles to date.

Started in 1941, it was the premier football competition in the country before the National Football League was setup in the year 1996. The Santosh trophy as named after the late Maharaja Sir Manmatha Nath Roy Chowdhary of Santosh, who had been the President of the IFA, the football organisation of Bengal, the runners-up trophy, Kamla Gupta Trophy, was also donated by the IFA. The third place teams receive the Sampangi Cup which was presented by the Mysore Football Association (now KSFA, in the memory of Sampangi, a renowned Mysore footballer.

West Bengal has been the most successful team in the tournament leading the all-time winners list with 31 titles to date.

Indian Super Cup

Much like the community shield in England the Indian Super Cup is a one-off annual Indian club association football match contested between the I-League champions and the Fed Cup winners. If there is same winner in I-League as well as Federation Cup then the league runners-up becomes the second team. The winners of the game receive the Shield as a trophy for the year, while players receive individual winner’s medals.

Starting out in 1997, the tournament has been held 11 times, cancelled in 2000-02 and then restarting till 2011. East Bengal FC has won it 3 times while Dempo, Salgaocar and Mohun Bagan won it twice each.

According to recent future plannings for Indian football by AIFF, Indian Super Cup will be expected to become revamped version of Federation cup, where top teams from Indian Super League, League 1(I league) and League 2(I league 2nd division) will take part.

Federation Cup

Tournaments

Mohun bagan won the latest edition

The Federation Cup is an once a year knockout style club football tournament in India. It has started in 1977. From its inception till NFL in 1996 it was the most prominent national level club football tournament in India. Winner of this tournament gets a chance to compete at Continental level in AFC Cup.

In 2015, Federation Cup was put on hold by the AIFF, so that some time for scheduling of both Indian Super League and I-League will be available. But after AFC mandated that every club must play 18 matches in the season to get in continental tournaments, AIFF decided to revive the tournament back in 2016. But again according to reports, the FED cup could be replaced by Indian Super Cup in future, to accommodate both I league and ISL clubs.

Also Read: For when “the Sleeping Giant” wakes up.

While Subroto cup, and Santosh trophy has a hassle free run since it does not depend on any clubs, the rest has either lost its sheen or the prominence. With AIFF looking to sort out Indian Calender issue with merger, let’s hope the end result benefits all these cups too.