Mumbai: Five Indian Super League (ISL) franchises and three I-League teams will be among 16 teams vying for the iconic Durand Cup football tournament, to be played in and around Kolkata between September 5 and October 3 this year.
The tournament, now in its 130th edition, was first held in the Kolkata in 2019, after moving from its long-time venue Delhi.
Traditionally organised by the Indian Army on behalf of the Armed Forces, the world's third oldest and Asia's oldest football tournament will this year also see the government of West Bengal as joint hosts, who have been providing support in all aspects of the organisation.
Besides top ISL franchises FC Goa and Bengaluru FC, the other clubs from India's top division would be Kerala Blasters, Jamshedpur FC, and Hyderabad FC.
Challenging them would be the century-old Mohammedan Sporting of Kolkata, who were the first Indian winners of the Cup in 1940 and who would be leading a troika of I-League challengers including defending champions Gokulam Kerala and Sudeva FC of Delhi.
FC Bengaluru United and Delhi FC will represent the second division of the Indian football whereas two Indian Army teams (Red and Green), a team from Indian Air Force and Indian Navy, CRPF, and the Assam Rifles round off the 16.
Three leading footballing venues of Kolkata have been identified for the Durand Cup, namely the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) and the Mohun Bagan Club Ground in Kolkata as well as the Kalyani Municipal Stadium ground, which has been regularly hosting national-level football matches over the past few years.
The Durand Cup is unique in the sense the winners are awarded three trophies with two rolling ones (the Durand Cup and the Shimla Trophy) and the President's Cup for permanent keeping.
The inaugural edition of the Durand Cup was held in Shimla in 1888, when it started off as an Army Cup, open only to the British Indian Army troops in India but soon opened up to civilian teams. Mohun Bagan and East Bengal have been the most successful teams, winning the tournament 16 times each.