Durand Cup, the oldest existing football tournament in Asia
The Durand Football Tournament also goes by the name the Durand Cup. It is an annual domestic football competition in India. This competition was first held in 1888 in Annadale, Shimla. The Durand Football Tournament Society (DFTS) hosted this.
This tournament is the oldest existing tournament in Asia. It is also the 3rd oldest existing professional club football tournament in the world. As of now, the tournament serves as the pre-season knock-out tournament for the football clubs of India from all divisions. This happens before the start of the Indian domestic football season each year.
Sir Mortimer Durand who was the Foreign Secretary of British India from 1884 to 1894 founded this tournament. They named the tournament after him. Ever since independence, the Army’s presence is maintained by the participation of several teams belonging to the Indian Army Forces itself. Army Green was the latest Army team to win the competition in 2016. At present, the holder of the Durand Cup is Gokulam Kerela.
The tournament began in 1888 under Sir Henry Durand. The modern-day Durand line separating Afghanistan and Pakistan is named after him as well. He wanted to get British Indian troops into sports and competitive events. That’s why he initiated the Durand Cup.
Shimla was a popular retreat for the British back in the day. So, the Durand Cup was first held there. Sir Henry Durand was recovering from an illness in the hill station. It was then that he recognized the importance of physical health for the soldiers in the Army. A lot of army regiments and military units were originally involved in the tournament. Due to this, it became inter regiment tournament essentially.
At first, they decided that they would play only hockey given that the sport was very popular among them. But gradually picked up its pace and made its way in. The event itself was a major deal. People from all across the country came to watch the finals. The newspapers and radios publicized this event highly. It was a great platform for the Indian football clubs to defeat the British troops. But that was a rare event at that time. However, events post World War 2 involved cancellation and relocation of the tournament. This ushered in a new era for Indian football.
The Durand Cup later shifted to Delhi post-1940 and they requested civilian clubs and teams to join in. This brought in teams like Mohammedan, East Bengal, Salgaocar, and other legendary I-League teams. Since then, these teams have dominated the proceedings. Nowadays, the Durand Football Tournament Society holds the tournament. They hold it every year without a break to attract top Indian teams and players from leagues like the ISL, I-League, and also Armed forces football teams. The reach of the tournament has expanded by the inclusion of ISL and Armed forces teams.