Why this would be the right time to bring back ‘Rovers Cup’

Amidst growing demand of more games for Indian footballers, WIFA aims to revive the once crown jewel of Mumbai Football – Rovers Cup

Amidst growing demand of more games for Indian footballers, WIFA aims to revive the once crown jewel of Mumbai Football – Rovers Cup

After Indian national team Coach Igor Stimac and Captain Sunil Chhetri showed their concerns for lack of game time for Indian Footballers, AIFF President Praful Patel stated that the issue of reviving traditional tournaments is being looked upon.

With Durand Cup back on track, Western Indian Football Association (WIFA) is now working on bringing back the legendary ‘Rovers Cup’ this year itself. The board is in advanced talks with various ISL as well as I League clubs and aims to restart the cup competition around late September before the regular ISL or I-league season commences. While WIFA’s previous attempt at reviving the tournament has failed, this time around the possibility of the tournament getting actual go ahead is high with growing demand of more games for Indian footballers from notable football personalities of the country.

Rovers Cup, the 2nd oldest tournament in the country, was started by some British football enthusiasts’ way back in the year 1891. Bangalore Muslims was the first Indian team to win the tournament in 1937, while Mohun Bagan has won the most titles over the tournament’s 100 years history. The Marines have won a total of 14 ‘Rovers Cup’ titles followed closely by arch rivals East Bengal with 10 ‘Rovers Cup’ titles. The last time the tournament was held was 19 years ago in 2000-01 season, when Mohun Bagan defeated Churchill Brothers SC 2-0 in the final to lift the title.

Although the tournament has been in oblivion over the last two decades, back in the day ‘Rovers Cup’ had been the premier football competition in India with big clubs across the country sending their best teams for the coveted title.

Despite numerous efforts, football in Mumbai has failed to capture the general public. Like cricket, football too has been a regular game for Mumbai kids, despite that unlike Cricket; football has failed to develop into a culture.

Rovers Cup hosted some of the biggest football names of the country and since 2001 (when it was stopped) local football fans have missed some top-level Indian football. Over the last two decades various clubs have come up and shut shop. Notable I league clubs to close down in Mumbai have been Mahindra United and Mumbai FC while Institutional sides like Air India and ONGC ply their trade in local division only. With just one city based club – Mumbai City FC in the top 3 tier of Indian Football, Mumbai football fans have missed the connection, that these local I league clubs and tournament brought to the city.

WIFA’s initiative of bringing the cup back to its glory days will not only boost the football interest in the city but also elevate the paradigm of Mumbai football. The Cup has a history attached to it and will probably have few local clubs participating in it. With top level football involving clubs from all over the country, fans can throng to the stadium to see their local heroes take on the best of the country.

During the Cup’s glory days, thousands thronged the Cooperage stadium to witness the football matches.

The ongoing Durand Cup has clearly shown that I League clubs, having fielded their best players, are going after the title unlike ISL sides that have sent their reserve sides to test out the bench strength. However, WIFA’s plan of scheduling the tournament just before the regular Indian Super League season could mean ISL sides fielding their best XI to try out the permutations and combinations with regular season players.

The tournament can act as the perfect pre-season for the participating clubs while acting as the perfect curtain-raiser for the two leagues. Either way, Rovers Cup return would be happy news for all Mumbai and Indian football aficionados.

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