Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], August 13 (ANI): The 131st edition of the Durand Cup is all set for a blockbuster opening with defending champions FC Goa going head-to-head with Mohammedan Sporting in the first game on August 16, in what will be a repeat of last edition's final. The two will clash in a Group B game at Kolkata's Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK), also the venue of the grand finale on September 18, 2022.
All 47 games across four venues and three states of the country will be broadcast live. All matches will also be live-streamed on the internet. With all 11 Indian top division Indian Super League (ISL) teams participating along with five I-League teams and four Services teams, the total number of teams have also gone up to 20 from 16 last year. The prize money for the winners, runner-ups and semi-finalists as well as those for the Golden Ball, Golden Boot and Golden Glove winners for the Player of the Tournament
In what has turned out to be a tournament of firsts, Assam and Manipur will join West Bengal as tournament hosts, which will be for the first time that three states will be hosting the iconic tournament. Guwahati's Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Assam and the Khuman Lampak Stadium in Imphal, Manipur, will be hosting 10 group stage games each.
A teaser of the theme song of the tournament, soulfully rendered by star singers Shaan, Papon and Rewben Mashangva, was also played out at the event.
Addressing the media on the occasion Aroop Biswas said, "We are very happy that 27 out of 47 games of the Durand Cup will be played in Kolkata. Also, that till 2025 at least, the tournament, which is now the number one football tournament in India, will be held in West Bengal. So, I will just say that we need your cooperation to make this tournament an even grander success. If there are any suggestions you have, please provide us with the same and we will surely look into it.
"I thank the Army once again for organising this tournament so wonderfully in our state. Finally, I would like to say that I am aware of some statistics that the Durand Cup has been won 16 times by Mohun Bagan and East Bengal which is the highest ever by any team. I hope that we will be able to see the 17th victory."
Speaking to the audience, Lt. General K.K. Repswal said, "I on behalf of Lt. Gen. R.P. Kalita, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Command and on behalf of the entire Eastern Command, welcome you all to this curtain-raiser for the 131st IndianOil Durand Cup. The Durand Cup is now the second qualifying Cup recognised by the Asian Football Confederation."
"This will ensure mandatory participation of all the 11 ISL teams which will in turn raise the standard of football and the Durand Cup even. I also want to thank the Government of West Bengal for the support that has been given towards the conduct of the Durand Cup tournament in Kolkata. I would to mention here that tremendous efforts have been put in by the State Government of Assam and Manipur to improve the football infrastructure so that matches of one pool each could be conducted at Guwahati and Imphal. I believe the Durand Cup has the scope to expand to a 24 or 28 team tournament in future."(ANI)