Bengaluru FC are the reigning Durand Cup champions.
The Durand Cup is all set to host the 132nd edition in its history to usher in the 2023-24 Indian football scene. The tournament, which starts on August 3, will be a 24-team affair and will be played across three different venues for a month.
Bengaluru FC head into the Durand Cup as defending champions after defeating Mumbai City FC in the final last season. For most teams, especially the Indian Super League (ISL) heavyweights, it has become a pre-season tournament where players look to boost their fitness levels.
But in terms of prestige, no tournament in Indian football is historically more prestigious than the Durand Cup. The oldest football tournament in Asia, it has created countless memories over the past century.
Some teams have been extremely dominant in the Durand Cup, especially some teams from Kolkata. With that being said, let’s take a look at the five teams with the most titles in Durand Cup history.
5. The Black Watch
The football team of the Black Watch, the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, had talented footballers in the early decades of the Durand Cup. The team of the Black Watch consisted of British soldiers who were part of that particular battalion, which dominated the decade of the 1890s. The Black Watch won the Durand Cup three times in a row from 1897–1899 – defeating the Shimla Rifles, North Staffordshire Regiment and Yorkshire Regiment in the final. After a 12-year drought, they won it again in 1911 – in a repeat of the final.
Their last Durand Cup victory came in 1920, marking the return of the competition six years after the First World War. The Black Watch have won the competition five times and finished as runners-up twice. It was also the best ever performance by a British team in the Durand Cup, with no other team winning more or reaching the final.
The relatively young Indian football fans who started following the country’s beautiful game in 2012 may not even have heard of JCT. Jagatjit Cotton & Textile Football Club, founded by the company of the same name, was formed in Punjab in 1971 when there was a need for a major club in the state.
They would go on to have a memorable run and were particularly impressive in the Durand Cup. Their first Durand Cup win came in 1976 when they shared the trophy with BSF. JCT won their first Durand Cup trophy outright in 1983, defeating a Mohun Bagan side that had previously won three of the last four editions in a ‘repeat’ of the final.
It will be fifth time lucky for the Punjabi side who have lost four Durand Cup finals before that. In 1987 they defeated Mariners again in the final and in 1992 won their third title with a narrow victory over Sporting Mohammedan.
In 1996, the JCT Durand Cup created history by becoming the first Indian team to defeat a foreign club in the final, Iraq Club Al-Naft, after the renewal of the Durand Cup after independence. JCT have won five Durand Cup titles and finished as runners-up seven times, with their last finals appearance coming in 2010 – a year before the club folded due to financial problems.
3. Border Security Force
They were well represented in the post-independence period by the Border Security Force (BSF), a member of the Indian Armed Forces. BSF won the title for the first time in 1968 by defeating the mighty East Bengal in the final. They repeated the heroics in 1971, being knocked out in a ‘repeat’ of the Leaders Cup final – before winning the title again in 1973. With former Indian national team captain Sukhwinder Singh in their ranks from 1974–78, they won the tournament consecutively in 1974 and 1975.
They went through tough years after that, but picked it up again in 1981. BSF’s last Durand Cup title came in 1988 when they beat East Bengal in a thrilling five-goal final. The Armed Forces team has fallen on hard times over the past three decades, failing to even reach the finals since 1991. Regardless, the BSF is the most successful armed forces team in the Durand Cup – having won seven titles!
2. East Bengal
East Bengal have a rich history in the Durand Cup and share many fond memories in the competition. The Red & Gold Brigade started playing in the competition in the post-independence era and won their first title in 1951 – knocking out Rajasthan Armed Constabulary in a repeat of the final.
In 1952, they successfully retained their title with a victory against the Hyderabad City Police. East Bengal won another title in 1956 and won the title twice in the decade of the 1960s. The Red & Gold Brigade won it three times in the 1970s as well, defeating Mohun Bagan on all three occasions to earn bragging rights for their fans.
However, after 1978, they had an 11-year wait before winning the Durand Cup in 1989 – fittingly against Mohun Bagan in the final. Their most successful period in the competition was from 1989 to 1995 when they won five of the seven editions. In the 21st century, East Bengal won the tournament twice in 2002 and 2004. They have not even reached the Durand Cup final since their last title in 2004. That said, the Red & Gold Brigade’s rich history in the tournament runs deep as they have won 16 Durand Cup titles and finished as runners-up on 10 occasions.
1. Mohun Bagan
Mohun Bagan are technically the most decorated team in Durand Cup history, but not by the biggest margin! The Mariners won the competition for the first time in 1953 when they defeated the National Defense Academy in the final. Their only win in the 1950s was against Mohammedan Sporting in a repeat of the final in 1959.
The Mariners won it three times in a row from 1963-65 to maintain dominance, but went through a rough patch for nine years after that. However, from 1974-1986, Mohun Bagan was a dominant force, winning the trophy eight times!
After that, they won it in 1994 with a narrow win over East Bengal. Their most previous Durand Cup win came in 2000 thanks to a victory over Mahindra United in the final. The Mariners have reached the final three times since then, but failed to win.
Kolkata Giants have won the Durand Cup 16 times and finished as runners-up 12 times. They hold the records for most consecutive Durand Cup wins and most appearances in a single final. Having last won the Durand Cup in 2000, the Mariners will be desperate to bring the trophy back to the club as they head into the tournament with a star-studded line-up.
(tags to translate) Durand Cup