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What is Durand Cup and Why it is so Special For Indian Armed Forces

The Durand Cup is an annual football tournament held in India. It is one of the oldest football competitions in the world, and its history dates back to 1888 when it was first organized by Sir Henry Mortimer Durand in Shimla, India.

The annual domestic football competition in India known as the Durand Football Tournament (Durand Cup) has been a celebrated event since its inception in 1888, held initially in Shimla.

Organized jointly by the Durand Football Tournament Society (DFTS) and the All India Football Federation (AIFF), this tournament holds a significant place in history as the oldest existing club football competition in Asia and the third oldest national football competition globally, following the English FA Cup and Scottish FA Cup.

Durand Cup
Durand Cup in Picture

As a momentous occasion, it marks the commencement of the Indian football season and is open to all national clubs, with the addition of guest invitee teams from various segments of the Indian Armed Forces or even foreign clubs.

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Foundation of Durand Cup

The renowned Durand Football Tournament, commonly referred to as the Durand Cup, traces its origins back to the year 1888 when it was initiated by Sir Henry Mortimer Durand in the picturesque town of Shimla, located in North India. During his recovery from illness in Shimla, Sir Henry recognized the immense importance of sports in promoting good health and well-being. Thus, he conceived the idea of awarding a prize to foster sporting competition within India.

Logo of Durand Cup
Logo of Durand Cup

Over the years, the tournament’s popularity soared, and in 1940, its venue was moved to New Delhi, the capital city of India. This strategic shift further contributed to the growth and significance of the Durand Cup, solidifying its position as a prestigious sporting event in the country’s football landscape.

Durand Cup Indian Army
Durand Cup with Indian Army

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History of Durand Cup

Originally, the Durand Tournament had its roots as a military-centric event, primarily catering to the British Armed Forces, the Indian Army, and other armed units, including provincial frontier-security regiments and volunteer regiments of the reserves. However, it was observed that the native soldiers typically showed a preference for field hockey over football, evident from the continued Indian and Pakistani dominance in international events like the Olympics.

Durand Cup Indian Navy
Durand Cup on board Indian Navy aircraft carrier

An intriguing exception to this trend was the Nepali men belonging to the brigades of Gurkhas, who actively participated in football. Initially, this left the field predominantly open to the Indian Army, given their inclination towards football. Nevertheless, with the growing popularity of football over time, it gradually evolved into a more universal sport, transcending cultural boundaries and becoming the widely embraced sport we recognize today.

In the aftermath of the turmoil in 1947, an unexpected turn of events led to the discovery of the Durand Cup in the office of Commander-in-Chief, Sir Claude Auchinleck. There were subsequent attempts to relocate the tournament to the newly formed country of Pakistan, but such plans faced strong opposition from Defence Secretary H.M. Patel. As a result, the cup was safeguarded and preserved in the State Bank of India, ensuring its continued association with Indian football.

Durand Cup Indian Air Force
Durand Cup at Air Force Academy Dundigal

Since then, the responsibility of hosting the tournament has been entrusted to the Durand Football Tournament Society, a registered society based in Delhi. This society is overseen by the Chief of Defence Staff and chaired by the three Service Chiefs of the Indian Armed Forces.

In the first edition of the tournament after India gained independence, Hyderabad City Police emerged victorious, defeating Mohun Bagan AC with a 1–0 scoreline in the replayed final. Over the following decade, the trophy exchanged hands frequently, with East Bengal Club, Mohun Bagan AC, Madras Regimental Centre, and Hyderabad City Police (later known as Andhra Pradesh Police after 1960) claiming victory. The tournament experienced a brief halt due to the Sino-Indian War before resuming.

durand cup 2022 winner

From that point on, Mohun Bagan and East Bengal dominated the competition, though Border Security Force and JCT FC occasionally posed challenges to their supremacy. In a historic moment for South Indian football, FC Kochin secured the Durand Cup in 1997, becoming the first club from the region to achieve this feat.

Durand Cup Format of Competition

In its early history, the specific format of the Durand Cup competition remains undocumented. However, in its current iteration, the tournament follows a structured two-phase format: round-robin and knockouts.

The group stage consists of 20 teams competing against each other. To assemble their squads, each team is permitted to have a maximum of 30 players.

Following the round-robin matches, the leading teams from each group advance to the knockout stage, where the intensity rises with each match. Ultimately, the tournament culminates in a thrilling final showdown between the top two teams, determining the ultimate champion.

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