New Delhi:Think of the Army and you think of the men who guard our borders. But that is not the only invaluable contribution made by our soldiers.
The Indian Army promotes every kind of sport in the country from shooting to boxing to football. The Durand cup certainly gets pride of place, which is why the Army has done everything to make sure that this event, which is in its 120th year, is kept alive despite an overcrowded calendar.
Para-gliders, a live rock band and Bhangra dancers were on display at the opening ceremony of the Durand Cup in Delhi. Human effort though fell short, when it came to taking center stage. It was a group of army dogs, which was the main attraction.
The top draw at the Durand cup or rather the top dog was this dog show. Why a dog show to open a football tournament? The answer is simple. The Durand Cup, the third oldest football tournament in the world, is organised by the Army, which meant that the opening ceremony resembled a bit of an Army exercise.
Soon after man's best friend enthralled the crowd, it was the turn of another army specialty, paragliding.
But what's a sporting event without a little song and dance? One of Delhi's more popular bands Black Slade was at hand to belt out hit numbers, as the crowd warmed up for the real feast, the first of the main draw matches.
The groovy songs were great, but what really revved up the Delhites was a group of Bhangra dancers, who brought in the element of the full-bodied Punjabi culture.
Overall, it was quite an appetizer for the clash between Churchill Brothers and Hindustan Aeronautical Limited.
"The Durand cup has history. It has a dedication of the armed forces. It is been done without any commercial agenda purely for the love of the game. The collaboration, therefore, is with a much greater oneness," said Neville Tuli, Chairman, OSIAN.
The three giants of Indian football, Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan Sporting are not part of the 120th edition of the Durand Cup.
But that has not dimmed the enthusiasm of either the sponsors or the participating teams. And with the main draw of the tournament finally kicking off, the vacant stands too have started to fill up.