Panji [Goa], August 3 (ANI): The Trophy Tour for the 131st edition of the historic Durand Cup football tournament was kickstarted in Goa, the home of the defending champions FC Goa, after they were unveiled in a grand ceremony by Rohan Khaunte, the Minister of Goa for Tourism, Information Technology and Printing and Stationery.
Also present at the function on August 2 at the Taj Resort & Convention Centre, Panjim, was Lt Gen KK Repswal, SM, VSM, Chief of Staff, Eastern Command and Chairman Durand Organising Committee.
Goa, which is the home of the Durand Cup defending champions FC Goa, was the final stop of a five-city Trophy Tour, a first in the tournament's century-long existence. The Trophy Tour was flagged off from Kolkata on July 19, 2022, travelling to Guwahati, Imphal and Jaipur before arriving in the State. After a two-day tour in Goa, the trophies return to Kolkata, the venue of the Grand Finale.
Addressing the gathering, Rohan Khaunte, said, "Goa is synonymous with football and it is yet another moment of pride for Goan football to host the three historic Durand Cup trophies. The passionate following for the game in the state will ensure that the Trophies are received with tremendous enthusiasm wherever they go."
"We thank the Durand Committee for this wonderful initiative as also for organizing the tournament with such finesse and professionalism. I will of course be rooting for FC Goa to defend their title when the tournament begins, but as true lovers of the game, we wish all participating teams the best of luck. We also wish Lt Gen Repswal rip-roaring success with the conduct of the tournament."
Also sharing his thoughts was Lt. Gen. Repswal, SM, VSM, SM, VSM, Chief of Staff, Eastern Command and Chairman Durand Organising Committee.
"Football in India without Goa is unthinkable and it gives us tremendous pleasure to bring the prestigious Durand Trophies to the home of the champions FC Goa. They enthralled the fans with their grit, professionalism and skills last year and we wish them all the best as they prepare to defend their title. This tour is part of our initiative to grow and popularize the game as well as the Durand Cup and we are extremely grateful to Rohan Khaunte, for taking time out from his busy schedule to encourage us today."
Akshay Tandon, FC Goa Club President and co-owner spoke on the occasion.
"I am elated to see the Durand Cup Trophy Tour happen in Goa. The state, as you all know, is a hotbed of football in the country. The people of Goa love the sport and we at FC Goa are working hard for its betterment. I'm also happy that the Durand Cup is back - tournaments like these play a big role in the expansion of the Indian football calendar, while at the same time keeps the legacy of the sport intact," he said.
"It was a great honour to lift the iconic Durand Cup trophy last year. As the defending champions this time, we will do our best to bring the trophy back to Goa."
Post the unveiling, the Trophies were put on display at the Bambolim camp of the Indian Army and an exhibition football game was also played at the FC Goa Club ground in the Salvador do Mundo Panchayat.
The three Trophies, the Durand Cup (a rolling trophy and the original prize), the Shimla Trophy (also a rolling trophy and first given by the residents of Shimla in 1904) and the President's Cup (for permanent keep and first presented by Dr Rajendra Prasad, India's first President, in 1956) continue their tour of Goa on August 3, with Trophy displays planned at the Dhempe College in Miramar, the MES College in Vasco, at the INS Hansa, the Panjim Church as well as the Mall de Goa in Porvorim.
They are then set to return to Kolkata on August 4, 2022.
In the Durand Cup 2021 finals played at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan (VYBK) on October 3, Edu Bedia's 105th-minute strike helped the Men in Orange overcome the challenge posed by Kolkata-based Mohammedan to lay their hands on the trophy for the first time ever.
This year, the Durand Cup has grown to 20 teams from 16 last year and all 11 teams of the Indian Super League (ISL) have confirmed participation. Five teams from the I-League and four Services teams will also be vying for the coveted honours.
FC Goa are in Group A alongside Mohammedan SC, Bengaluru FC, Jamshedpur FC and Indian Air Force.
There will be a total of 47 games in the Durand Cup this year, with West Bengal hosting Group A and Group B matches, while Imphal and Guwahati will host Group C and Group D games respectively. All seven knockout games will be held across the three venues in West Bengal.
The Tournament will culminate with the Grand Finale scheduled on September 18, 2022, at VYBK. (ANI)