New Delhi:The Durand Cup is the third oldest football tournament in the world but plagued by scheduling problems it has been steadily losing some of its importance.
But this year art house Osian has stepped in to make sure that the tournament gets a new lease of life and the biggest boost could be that the matches will be played under lights for the first time at Delhi's Ambedkar Stadium.
Football in India has had to take the back-seat in terms of public and private sector support for a very long time.
Osian's sponsorship of the oldest football tournament in the country came as a breath of fresh air last year. This year the art house went a step further, pumping in more money into a tournament devoid of big names.
And for the connoisseurs, the Durand has a new charm this time around, with night matches being scheduled for the first time, courtesy the newly installed floodlights at the Ambedkar stadium.
The country's biggest art auction house now faces the daunting task of trying to promote the 120-year-old Durand Cup.
One of the main reasons is that the AIFF has decided to spend most of their money on the National Football Legaue. But Durand sponsors Osian are determined to save this historic tournament from extinction. This year they've doubled the prize money to Rs 20 lakh.
While India's recent Nehru Cup success gave football in India a much needed shot in the arm, unfortunately the Durand may not be able to ride on that popularity wave for two reasons.
Firstly the tournament is clashing with the Kolkata Premier League. It means the Kolkata giants East Bengal and Mohun Bagan, who share 31 Durand titles among themselves since independence will not be participating.
Add to that the fact that stars like Bhutia and Chhetri won't feature either because of the World Cup qualifiers, leaving the tournament looking a bit empty.