Indian Football : The endangered football tournaments of India
India is a colorful country and it is famous for its vibrant festivals and events. Indian football also added some color to country’s rich culture by having many football tournaments. Presently India have two top tier football tournament, one is I-League and other is Federation Cup. The main motto is to develop professionalism and maintain a proper football calendar in order to catch up with international football. With the focus mainly on these top two tournaments, the local tournaments are losing out in its sheen and popularity. However, with proper planning, there is no harm if the some of the local and popular football tournaments could be salvaged. Let’s have a look into these threatened and endangered football tournaments of India.
The Kalinga Cup, once Odissa’s most popular football tournament, paused for eight years and when revived in 2005, was already out of limelight. In the glory days, most of the big teams from Kolkata & Goa used to take part in it. The tournament was considered a prestigious one by all the major clubs. Bhaichung Bhutia’s first top tier tournaments outside Calcutta football league was Kalinga Cup where Shyamal Ghosh, the coach of East Bengal club, used him mostly as a substitute. Now the state of Odissa don’t have much football activities. The local league is a small event filled with PSUs and low quality football matches. By reviving Kalinga Cup in a grand way, they can definitely boost the image of the game and make it more popular among present generation in the state.
New Delhi Hereos’ first major triumph in Indian football was the inaugural DCM trophy back in 1945 where they beat King’s own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Since 1945, DCM trophy was a regular annual event which used to feature foreign clubs and universities. Teams from USSR, Korea, China, Australia, and Iran took part in DCM trophy. Unfortunately, now DCM trophy has no place in Indian football.
The Tournaments in North East
Bordoloi trophy (Assam) and All India Governor’s Gold Cup (Also called Sikkim Governor’s gold cup) played significant role in spreading popularity of the game across the North East India. These two tournaments were significant especially to North Eastern teams as they did not have much opportunities of getting nationwide exposure. North Eastern club teams like Guwahati Town Club, GMC – Gangtok, Assam Police used to give a tough time to all major clubs. Now Assam and Sikkim state football association are organizing the tournaments but they have tough competitors such as I league 2nd div. and various north eastern football league. Apart from that, big names don’t feature in these tournaments, making them less attractive. Still they are helping is continuing the traditional football tournaments, specially in Sikkim where the Governor’s Gold Cup has been held every year since 1979 and still pulls considerable crowd.
Durand Cup & IFA shield
India’s oldest football tournament, The Durand Cup, is also the third oldest football tournament of the world. The Durand Cup used to be hosted by Indian Army and they deserve the credit to keep it alive. Back in 2006, an event management group took over the responsibilities of hosting the Durand, however, the much expected grand revival is yet to be seen. Another football tournament close to every football lover’s heart is IFA Shield. Its the IFA shield where Mohun Bagan registered there famous 1911 victory over East Yorkshire Regiment. Later, IFA shield featured reputed teams like Bayern Munich (B – Team), Pakhtakhor, Santos SC, FC Shakhtar Donetsk. The tournament is still alive but IFA shield is losing its charm because IFA (The state association of West Bengal) is hosting the tournament in the middle of I league, thus I-League clubs are not much interested, and inviting 3rd tier foreign clubs who are worse than the Indian clubs. These two prestigious football tournaments are slowly on decline and under the threat of extinction.
There are many more football tournaments which are no longer held. The notables among them are – Nagji Trophy, Rovers Cup, and McDowell Trophy. There was Scissors Cup which was held in Kerala and a very popular tournament among South Indian teams. Goa used to have Governor’s gold cup as their season opener. The Gurdarshan Memorial Football Tournament was a high-status tournament in Punjab. So there were football tournaments across the length and breadth of the country in the past.
Checkout this old video of Rovers Cup to appreciate its crowd-pulling capacity
These tournaments are more important because much of the I-League teams come from Bengal, Goa and Maharashtra, thus making it less interesting for rest of the nation. I strictly believe that the football clubs should give priority mainly I-league and Federation cup, which will be for betterment of Indian football. There should also be a proper football calendar in line with international football to streamline club and national team activities. But I still believe that there is a possibility to salvage these prestigious football tournaments by choosing a flexible football calendar, guidelines about the maximum number of matches each player can play and provision for junior players. Furthermore, tournaments can be coordinated such that there is no overall, for example, The Durand Cup and the IFA Shield can be organized every alternate years in a grand way. Some of the other tournaments can be restricted for junior and sub junior level or for reserve teams as we are yet to have a proper practice platform for bench-warmers. Revival of these tournaments in a proper manner will attract more youth as well as generate local interest, thus giving Indian football the necessary momentum.
Here’s a list of football tournaments in India apart from local leagues, I league, Fed cup, Santosh trophy :
Airlines Gold Cup, Bordoloi Trophy, AmbaMedhi Cup, ATPA Shield – The Ballarpur Industries Football Trophy, Nripendra Narayan Bhattacharjee Trophy, All-India BSNL Football Cup, Churachand Singh Invitation Football Trophy, Durand Cup, All-India Electricity Board Football Cup, Narayanmal Garodia Gold Cup, Goa Governor’s Cup, Gurdarshan Memorial Football Tournament, Hot Weather Championships, IFA-Shield, Independence Day Cup, The Kohima Royal Gold Cup, Lal Bahadur Shastri Cup, Lt. Governor’s Cup, Mayanglambam Chittamani Memorial Winners Cup, B.N. Mullick Police Cup, Nadkarni Cup, Naga Students Federation Martyr’s Memorial Trophy, OIL Challenge Gold Cup, All-India Petroleum Sports Control Board Inter-unit Football Trophy, All-India Postal Football Trophy, Principal Harbhajan Singh Memorial Trophy, Puttiah Memorial Trophy, Inter-Railway Trophy, Shaheed-e-Azam Sardar Bhagat Singh Memorial Trophy, Sikkim Governor’s Gold Cup, Sri Guru Gobind Singh Trophy, Tirur All-India Football Tournament, Tri-Services Football Championship, Youth Soccer Championship, Air-India Millenium Cup, Arlem Cup, Dr. T. Ao Trophy, Bandodkar Gold Trophy. DCM Troph.y Mammen Mappillai Trophy, McDowell’s Cup, Rovers Cup, Sait Nagjee Trophy, Scissors Cup, Shohanlal Dugar Shield.
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