`Low key` IFA tourney to kick off on March 31

Kolkata: With cricket World Cup gradually
moving towards exciting knockout stage, country`s premier
football tournament, the IFA Shield is all set to be a low-key
affair when the tournament kicks off at the Yuba Bharati
Krirangan here on March 11.

The Indian Football Association (IFA) Secretary Utpal
Ganguli rued that the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has
not given due importance to the tournament, to be held from
March 11-31, running into its 115th edition.

"Unfortunately, the AIFF has not accorded priority to
this. So we are forced to organise the tournament in this
time. The AIFF had earlier agreed to slot it during the
pre-season. It all requires the AIFF permission," Ganguli

There are concerns about the teams fielding second-string
outfits as many India players would be out of action because
of India camp for the pre-Olympic qualifiers while East Bengal
will be engaged in their AFC Cup campaign.

But Ganguli assured the tournament will not lack its

"I`m not bothered about what`s happening in cricket.
There is a discernible interest in football and it`s up to the
media to give the premier tournament due attention. I can only
assure that all the teams will field their main sides and
there is no question mark about East Bengal`s participation,"
Ganguli argued.

Ten clubs including China outfit Shandong Luneng Taishan
and five I-League clubs including Churchill Brothers and the
city`s `Big Two` will be seen in action. There will be a
league-cum-knock-out format with top two teams from two groups
making the last four cut.

East Bengal have been pooled with Churchill Brothers in
group A, while in group B Mohun Bagan, Pune FC and Chirag
United will be seen in action.

The winners will take home Rs 10 lakh, while the
runners-up will be richer by Rs 7 lakh and the third-placed
side will be given a cash award of Rs 1 lakh, the IFA
secretary said.



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