Manipur CM N Biren Singh and others during the trophy unveiling ceremony in Imphal

Four decades after winning the coveted Durand Cup, Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh on July 27 unveiled the three trophies of the cup in Imphal.

Biren Singh, a former professional footballer won the Durand Cup in 1981 representing the BSF team.

Durand Cup trophies are in Imphal, as a part of the five-city trophy tour.

Manipur is all set to become the first-time hosts of the century-old tournament, Asia’s oldest, along with Assam, as Imphal’s Khuman Lampak stadium gets set to host 10 group games of the 131st Durand Cup, from August 18 to September 05.

Also present on the historic occasion was the chief of staff of Eastern Command Lt Gen KK Repswal who happens to be the chairman Durand organising committee.

The iconic Durand Cup trophies were flagged-off from Kolkata on July 19 and reached Guwahati in Assam on July 21. After their tour of Manipur, they proceed to Jaipur, Delhi and Goa, before returning to Kolkata, where the grand finale is scheduled for September 18 at the hallowed Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan (VYBK), also popularly referred to as the Salt Lake stadium in local parlance.

Biren Singh said: “It’s a matter of great pride and privilege for me to be associated with this tournament. In 1981, I was part of the winning BSF team.”

“At first, I was tensed that Manipur would not be able to host the tournament due to lack of infrastructure, but now I am sure that we’ll meet all the requirements and I can assure you that the Durand Cup, which is very close to my heart, will be held here successfully in the future as well. We will make it bigger and better.”

Also sharing his thoughts on the occasion Lt Gen Repswal said, “It is wonderful to be in Manipur, a state that has contributed so much to Indian football. It is no surprise to all of us that the CM Biren Singh himself is a past football professional and we are honoured by his presence here today on this historic occasion.”

“The cooperation from the Manipur government has been hugely encouraging and exceptional. The support has been overwhelming and has further boosted our spirits in our endeavour to promote and spread the spirit of Durand further east.”

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) – were taken to the historic Imphal Polo ground where the game of polo first originated, escorted by a bike rally.

The Durand Cup will be bigger this year with 20-top teams of the country, including all 11 teams from the top division Indian Super League (ISL) participating. There were 16 teams last year.

There will be a total of 47 games in the 131st Durand Cup edition, with both Guwahati and Imphal hosting 10-games of group C and group D each. All seven-knockout games will be held in three venues in West Bengal. The opening pool matches are slated to begin on August 16 at Kolkata’s VYBK, on August 17 at Guwahati’s Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium and August 18 at the Khuman Lampakh stadium with the popular local derby between Neroca FC and TRAU FC.

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