Federation Cup 2017 to be held in Cuttack from 7th May

Photos: Sayen
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Federation Cup 2017 will take place in Cuttack.

The executive committee of AIFF announced at a meeting of the core body on Thursday that the Federation Cup 2017 will take place in Cuttack, a prime city of the state of Orissa from May 7 to May 21.

The premier knockout club tournament in Indian Football is returning to the city of Cuttack after 7 years. The last time they organised Federation Cup was back in 2010 when East Bengal emerged victorious over their arch-rivals Mohun Bagan in the final in front of a packed Barabati crowd by a solitary goal.

East Bengal won the Federation Cup when it was held in Cuttack last time in 2010
East Bengal won the Federation Cup when it was held in Cuttack last time in 2010

It was first-year in-charge for Trevor James Morgan of the Red and Gold brigade in his previous stint with the club. Federation Cup started forty years ago in 1977 as a national club level knockout tournament.

Before that, the Durand Cup, the Rovers Cup and the IFA Shield were the three most prestigious tournaments in Indian football which were called ‘The Blue Ribbon’ tournaments and winning the three was considered as a treble win. But soon the Federation Cup overtook the others tournaments as the biggest tournament in the Indian football calendar.

The extra prize money and better organisational skills by AIFF compared to the other tournaments played a pivotal role in the establishment of Fed Cup as the elite competition in sub-continental football. But the scenario changed soon.

'Where Pride meets passion', the onus is now on AIFF to save the catchline from becoming a cliche
‘Where Pride meets passion’, the onus is now on AIFF to save the catchline from becoming a cliche

In 1997, 20 years after the inception of the Federation Cup, AIFF started the NFL-National Football league, the first all India based tournament of league format which soon became the ultimate trophy to win for the players and the coaches as it demanded more consistency, quality and composure and the financial and marketing aspect also had a contributory role. The Federation Cup thus became the second most important tournament being demoted by the new brainchild of AIFF.

In 2015, AIFF even decided to halt the Federation Cup to accommodate slot to the newly formed Indian Super League in the ‘Yearly Football Calendar’ which was an unprecedented scenario.

This decision of AIFF was heavily criticised from several spheres of the football fraternity of the country. AIFF was reluctant to change its decision and had a blueprint to shut down the tournament or make it a junior level competition but the rules of AFC proved to be a crucial factor at this juncture.

AFC rule stated that a club must play a minimum of 20 matches per season in tournaments authorised by the highest body of football in the country to be eligible for AFC tournaments eg. AFC Champions League and AFC Cup. This created doldrums in the plannings of AIFF as the I-League clubs would not be playing 20 matches per season in AIFF tournaments as I-League had to be a minimum of 11 team tournament for that purpose which it was not and ISL was not an authorised tournament by AFC.

Barabati Stadium, the venue for Federation Cup 2017
Barabati Stadium, the venue for Federation Cup 2017

So AIFF was forced to bring back Federation Cup. Last season for the first time the Federation Cup was played in home and away format but this year again it is reverted to its traditional single-leg Knockout format.

Top eight teams from the I-League will participate in this year’s tournament trying to clinch the title away from the Mariners who won it last time by thrashing Jahar Das’ Aizawl FC in the final by a staggering scoreline of 5-0. Mohun Bagan is incidentally the most successful club in the tournament’s history with 14 trophies illuminating in their trophy cabinet.

The AIFF would have kept last year’s format unchanged but the international matches of Indian National Team forced to cut short its duration and make it revert to its single-leg mode.

The Blue Tigers have an AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers match against the Kyrgyz Republic on 13th June and before that on 7th June, Constantine’s men would play Lebanon in a friendly match as a trial before the clash with the Kyrgyz warriors. Constantine also wants few days of practice camp before these matches as a consequence of which AIFF decided to complete the tournament within 2 weeks.

The Champions of the tournament will, as usual, get an entry in the AFC Cup qualifiers. This could also be the last time when East Bengal and Mohun Bagan (also Bengaluru FC) will play the Federation Cup as the rumours of them being a part of next season’s ISL is gaining prominence day by day.