Srinagar: India’s top football clubs, including two Calcutta giants Kingfisher East Bengal and McDowell Mohun Bagan, are likely to return to the Valley after a 28-year hiatus, a move that is expected to help Kashmir rediscover its romance with the sport.
The last time Kashmir hosted these clubs was during the Federation Cup in 1984 but the feat couldn’t be achieved again for decades after the Valley slipped into insurgent hands a few years later.
With peace returning to the Valley and football clubs in full bloom again, the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir are looking forward to host these clubs again.
“We had approached 12 top clubs in the country for a tournament here. We wanted to find out how many of them are interested to play. Only six of them have shown interest. They will be playing in the tournament along with several local clubs,” said Tafazul Hussain, Sports Board chairman of J&K Bank, which is organising the event under the aegis of J&K Football Association (JKFA).
JKFA president Zamir Ahmad Thakur said that All India Football Federation (AIFF) has given the green light for hosting the tournament.
It was also learnt that the teams approached for the competition were three Calcutta-based clubs — Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting — besides Salgaocar SC, Dempo SC, Mumbai FC and Pune FC.
Hussain said: “East Bengal have already responded positively.”
[Senior officials from both East Bengal and Mohun Bagan confirmed that they are willing to participate in the tournament if the organisers can conduct it in July-August, says A Staff Reporter in Calcutta].
Hussain said the qualifying round of the tournament, titled All India J&K Bank Football Tournament, will be played in August.
“The final round would be played in September”, he said.