The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Big Two put organisers in a fix

New Delhi: The Durand Cup football tournament organisers are in a quandary about their fixtures and groupings because of the Calcutta Super Division league play-off final to be played between East Bengal and Mohun Bagan on November 2.

Now both the Calcutta giants will reach Delhi earliest by November 3. Thus their first match in the three-team quarter final league will be slated for November 4. According to the original fixture, Mohun Bagan were due to start on November 3. Their second match is on November 6. The semi-finals are slated for November 7 and 8 and the final on November 10.

As neither East Bengal nor Mohun Bagan can be made to play their semi-final matches a day after their concluding quarter final league ties, the organisers will reluctantly put these two teams in the same half.

Thus, if both Mohun Bagan and East Bengal top their groups, they will clash in the semi-finals on November 8. The third Calcutta team in the fray is Mohammedan Sporting. Their opening match is on November 2.

The 116th Durand tournament is being squeezed in between the Afro-Asian Games and the National Football League (NFL) due to start on November 15. Twelve teams will take part in the competition this year.

The list includes nine NFL teams, including three from Goa — Salgaocar (Durand winners in 1999), Vasco and Dempo. There is some doubt about the availability of Dempo though. In that case, they will be replaced by Haywards Sporting.

The other NFL teams in the fray are 1998 and 2001 Durand champions Mahindra United of Mumbai, five-time champions JCT and Indian Bank, Chennai. The other two seeded sides are Tata Football Academy (TFA) and last year’s Durand runners-up Army XI.

The four top-seeded teams are holders East Bengal, 16-time Durand champions Mohun Bagan, Feder ation Cup champions Mahindra and last year’s NFL runners-up Salgaocar. The complete draw will be released in a few days.

The Durand qualifiers will be held from October 26-31. Ten teams, including four each from Delhi and the Services, Assam Rifles and Jammu and Kashmir Bank will compete in this stage.

Only the winning team of this phase will qualify for the tournament proper. IFA Shield semi-finalists Ever-Ready Association, Calcutta, had also applied to be included in the preliminary tournament.

However despite coach Amal Dutta’s pleas, the organisers could not accommodate them. Dutta had hoped to use the Durand tournament as a warm-up for the NFL second division scheduled to commence from January 2004.

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