In a first, all eleven Indian Super League (ISL) teams will participate in the Durand Cup, the oldest football tournament in Asia as they vie for the first silverware of a longer Indian football season in the tournament’s 131st edition.
The Durand Cup also includes five teams from I-League and four from the Indian armed forces. The tournament offers the ISL and I-League teams an opportunity to play competitive matches before the start of their respective league campaigns.
The historic tournament will also present an opportunity for all teams to win a trophy and develop winning momentum before the start of the league fixtures. The increased number of games is something that has long been advocated by experts and former players for the development and growth of Indian footballers.
“It’s perfect having more games in India. It has been a long time coming, regardless of if it’s cup competitions, pre-season tournaments, or post-season tournaments. It doesn’t matter. As long as you can increase the number of games from 20 to 30. You need at least 30 competitive games and the calendar also has to be increased in terms of the number of months,” former Bengaluru FC midfielder Erik Paartalu said in a statement.
“It’s no good going from October to March and trying to put 30 games in that window. The players will get injured. So to extend it from August to May and align a lot of the other competitions is great news,” he added.
Ishfaq Ahmed who is the assistant head coach of Kerala Blasters FC echoed Paartalu’s thoughts.
“A longer season is always ideal for players and clubs because you have a proper off-season break. You don’t have an off-season for five or six months because then you get out of shape and it’s not easy for professional players to stay out of their profession for six months. So, with a longer season, the off-season break becomes smaller,” Ahmed said.
“So the decision of having a longer season and having more tournaments will only benefit players in terms of fitness and maturity. Ultimately, it’s football matches that can help you to progress more quickly than off-seasons,” he added.
The Durand Cup will be played across five venues across three states: West Bengal, Assam, and Manipur. The 20 teams are split into four groups of five with six teams enjoying home advantage in the group stage.
FC Goa who won the competition last season will look to defend their title and start the Carlos Pena era on a winning note. They won’t have an easy ride with Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC competing with them in the same group.