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President Droupadi Murmu asks stakeholders to work together for upliftment of Indian football

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New Delhi, Jul 10 (PTI) President Droupadi Murmu on Wednesday asked the stakeholders of Indian football to work together for the upliftment of the game in the country as she flagged off the trophy tour of the century-old Durand Cup tournament here.

The 133rd edition of Asia’s oldest and world’s fifth oldest tournament begins on July 27 and will be played in four cities — Kolkata, Kokrajhar in Assam, Shillong in Meghalaya and Jamshedpur in Jharkhand.

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“Football is the most popular sport in the world. Professional footballers entertain people. Currently, Euro 2024 is going on and it is being followed world over, it’s everywhere in the news,” President Murmu said in her address at a function at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

“All the stakeholders in the country should work together for the upliftment of the game in India.”

She reminded the gathering of the contribution of Durand Cup — named after its founder Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of India from 1884 to 1894 — in the country’s football tradition.

“It is India’s oldest football tournament and it’s more than 135 years old,” the president said of the tournament which was first held in Shimla in 1888.

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“India’s first president Rajendra Prasad presented the Durand Cup winners the President’s Cup in 1950,” she added.

Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan, Chief of the Army Staff General Manoj Pandey and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Dinesh Kumar Tripathi were also present when President Murmu unveiled the trophies.

The Durand Cup is organised by the Indian Army on behalf of the three Services, and under the aegis of the All India Football Federation.

After the inaugural edition in Shimla, the tournament moved to New Delhi in 1940, where it was held till 2016.

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In 2019, the tournament moved to the eastern part of the country, with Kolkata becoming the home base.

What makes the Durand Cup unique is that the winning team gets three trophies, two rolling (Durand Cup and Shimla Trophy) and one for permanent keep (President’s Cup).

The Shimla Trophy was donated by the city’s residents in 1904 to show their passion and support for the tournament. The Shimla Trophy began to be awarded in rolling from 1965.

Indian football legend Sunil Chhetri reminisced how he was “discovered” and came to national limelight after playing in the Durand Cup in 2002 for Delhi club City FC.

Twenty-four teams will feature in the July 27 to August 31 tournament and they will be divided into six groups. Eight teams — group toppers and two best second-placed sides — will qualify to the knockout stage.

Services teams of Bangladesh and Bhutan are also taking part in the tournament.

The final will be held at the iconic Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata.

Indian Super League side Mohun Bagan Super Giant are the defending champions, having beaten Kolkata rivals East Bengal 1-0 in the final in the 2023 edition of the tournament.

Indian football has been in a state of turmoil for the past few weeks after the team failed to qualify for the third round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers, leading to the sacking of coach Igor Stimac.

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