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Durand Cup 2022: The Bitter-Sweet Imphal Derby Featured

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh opens Manipur Chapter 131st Edition of the Durand Cup 2022 at Khuman Lampak; Neroca FC defeats Trau FC 3-1

Union Minister Rajnath Singh opened the 131st Edition of the Durand Cup 2022-Manipur Chapter at the Khuman Lampak Sports Complex in a glittering ceremony witnessed by full packed crowd this evening. Manipur is co-hosting the tournament for the first time. The tournament is being held in multiple venues of Kolkata, Imphal and Guwahati. Manipur is hosting 10 group C matches of the Cup.

Two biggest football clubs of Manipur, Neroca FC and Tiddim Road Athletic Union (TRAU) FC locked horns in the first match of the cup played in Imphal. It was one of the most thrilling matches for the football fans of Manipur, especially for NEROCA FC fans as the football club defeated TRAU FC 3-1. This was not the first-ever Imphal derby. The first one took place in the I-League on January 8, 2020, when TRAU FC defeated NEROCA FC 2-1. It won't be an exaggeration to say that the Durand Cup, which is Asia's oldest football tournament and third oldest in the world came to life in this edition. The tournament is named after its founder Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of British-India  from 1884 to 1894.  Durand Cup, an annual domestic tournament was first held at Shimla in 1888.

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh greeted the huge crowd that had gathered to witness the event by saying “Khurumjari”. He said it is a "historic day" as Durand cup was being played in Manipur. It shows a huge prestige for the North East and is a matter of huge pride for the region. The Union Defence Minister said there is a soldier in a player and a player in a soldier. I also believe, the spirit of sportsmanship should be present in politicians too. Rajnath Singh also tweeted, “Delighted to attend the Inaugural Ceremony of the Imphal Chapter of Durand Cup-2022 today. Durand Cup is one of the oldest football tournaments in the world. The Indian Army has done a commendable job by organising the matches in Manipur”.

Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren holds the Durand Cup dearly to his heart. An avid football fan, N.Biren played the 1981 Durand Cup Tournament as a young footballer. He was one of the star footballers from Manipur who helped BSF secure a famous win in the 1981 edition. Undoubtedly, it was reliving the memory lane moment for the Chief Minister. In his speech, N. Biren thanked the Indian Army and tournament authority for making it possible to hold Durand Cup matches in Manipur. It may be mentioned that N. Biren has recently announced an ambitious target of setting up 6 football grounds in 6 districts of the state before the next Durand Cup.

On the flip side, today’s opening event was a bitter-sweet moment as many football fans and enthusiasts were denied entry even though they had bought tickets, as the stadium was already full-packed. Heated arguments ensued between the disappointed fans and security personnel at the entry gates. Many parents with their wards were denied entry. Some tried their luck to get a glimpse of the event by climbing up the gate and some irate fans even broke the iron gates in disappointment. Does Manipur need a bigger stadium to hold more crowds in future? Another perplexing question is why tickets more than the seating capacity were sold out in the first place? Was there some miscalculation?

The heavy security measures in view of the Union Defence Minister’s visit were required, however, the traffic jam it caused and inconveniences that commuters had to face can’t be ignored. Luckily, today was not the last day and more league matches are in the pipeline. Hopefully, many crowds will turn up again and maybe, just maybe all those who were left out today will get a chance to watch the remaining matches.

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