GUWAHATI, Aug 5: The football wave swept through the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) as thousands of football fans thronged the SAI Stadium in Kokrajhar to get a glimpse of their favourite players as the 132nd edition of the Durand Cup gets underway.
Union defence minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday inaugurated the Durand Cup in Kokrajhar in the presence of Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and chief of army staff General Manoj Pande.
Lauding the Assam government for holding Asia’s oldest football tournament in Kokrajhar, Rajnath Singh said, “My congratulations to Kokrajhar and Assam for holding this prestigious tournament. It is a proud moment for all … I must congratulate the government for creating such an atmosphere in BTC that such tournaments are being held here.”
The opening ceremony was an assortment of colourful cultural performance, display of different martial arts and flypasts by the armed forces.
Excitement rose among the fans as they watched in rapt attention local Bodoland FC taking on Rajasthan United in the opening match.
“The ‘junoon’ (obsession) for football as seen in the Northeast can be matched by that seen in only a few places of the country. There is a lot of enthusiasm for the game in the region. The way to Northeast’s heart is definitely through football,” Singh said.
Himanta Biswa Sarma meanwhile, thanked the Union minister for being a part of the games. He also said Kokrajhar will get another stadium at an estimated cost of Rs 120 crore.
“The fact that Kokrajhar is hosting the prestigious tournament is a testimony to the unprecedented peace prevailing in BTR. The construction of a new stadium will begin here from November this year,” Sarma said.
The Union minister also drew parallels between a football player and a good citizen, saying both are bound by rules and regulations that include penalties in case of wrongdoing.
He also took the occasion to pay tribute to the state’s first chief minister Gopinath Bordoloi on his death anniversary. (With inputs from PTI)