The Durand Football Tournament is a football competition in India which has a history dating back to 1888.
The Tournament is named after its founder, Sir Mortimer Durand, British India's Foreign Member of the time, the counterpart of the Foreign Secretary in London. Sir Mortimer was recuperating from illness at the leading hill station of British India, Simla in northern India. Having become conscious of the value of sport as a means to maintain health, he decided to present a prize to encourage sporting competition in India. At first it was effectively an Army cup, and largely the preserve of the British troops in India, but over the years it widened its appeal and opened up to civilian teams, until it became a more open and conventional sporting contest. It is now one of the leading prizes in Indian football. The final major administrative change was when the Army passed on the actual running of the Tournament to a civilian administration in 2006. The Army presence is maintained by the participation of several military teams, including an Army XI, which won the competition as recently as 2005.
The Durand Tournament was initially a military affair, open to the Army in India: the British Army, the regular Indian Army and other Indian military units, such as Provincial frontier-security regiments and the Volunteer regiments of the reserves. In practice, however, the Indian Army traditionally preferred field hockey to football, a fact which has been evident from the Indian and Pakistani dominance of that sport in international events such as the Olympics. The exception to this tradition were the Nepalese men of the Brigade of Gurkhas. Initially, this tended to leave the field open to the British Army until football's popularity took hold and it became the more universal sport it is today. After the Second World War, the British Army left India and the tournament was opened to non-military teams to maintain the level of competition.
The initial matches were played in Dagshai, which is actually a short distance outside Simla. The inaugural Final of the Tournament, in 1888, was a Scottish derby, with the first name on the trophy being the Royal Scots Fusiliers, who beat the Highland Light Infantry with a score of 2-1. The Durand Cup has been suspended twice, due to the two World Wars.
In 1940 the venue was transferred to New Delhi,and it is now held at the Ambedkar Stadium in the city. Following India's independence in 1947, the tournament was hosted by the Indian Army.
The most successful teams are currently East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, with 16 wins each, accounting for no less 32 cup victories over the years. With the eclipse of high profile teams from Hyderabad, since 1970 the Durand Cup has been won mostly by teams from Kolkata, such as East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, or from the Punjab, such as the Border Security Force and JCT Mills. Mohun Bagan also won the first title of the new Millennium. In recent years, however, Goa has also produced a run of winning form. In 1997 a team from the south won for the first time, thanks to FC Kochin. In 2002 for the first time a team from Mumbai won a repeat victory, when Mahindra United won its second title, following its 1998 win. In 2003 Goa matched this feat, when Salgaocar added to its 1999 victory. In 2005 another Goan side, Sporting Clube de Goa, missed the title by a whisker when the Army XI produced an upset to win, but the following year was undeniably Goan when a third Goan team, Dempo S.C., thrashed JCT 2-0 in the 2006 finals. Recent seasons has been dominated by yet another Goan team: Churchill Brothers. They won the tournament three times: in 2007, 2009 and 2011, and narrowly missed a hat-trick, as runners-up in 2008; they were also runners-up in 2001-02.
The winning team is presented with three trophies: The President’s Cup (first presented by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India); the Durand Cup (the original challenge prize, which is a rolling trophy); and the Shimla Trophy (first presented by citizens of Shimla in 1904 and, since 1965, a rolling trophy).
India's armed forces deserve credit for keeping the Durand Cup tradition alive over the decades.In 2006, Osians, the art house, took over the running and management of the Durand Cup. Prize money, TV coverage and the quality of the football souvenirs produced have improved dramatically.