Kolkata: Hosts Bengal will aim at ending
their 11-year title drought when the 64th National Football
Championship for the Santosh Trophy 2009-10 kicks off with the
preliminary round at different veunes here Thursday.
Twenty-nine times champions Bengal, under coach Raghu
Nandy, bowed to Goa in the shootout last year in Chennai to
finsh runners-up and the title chase remained elusive for the
giants who had last won the trophy way back in 1998-99.
This time under Shabbir Ali, Bengal vow to win back the
title as the team gears up for a residential camp from
Saturday before they kick off their campaign in the
quarterfinal league stage beginning July 29.
Bengal along with reigning champions Goa and
semifinalists Tamil Nadu and Services have been directly
seeded into the last eight stage.
Thirty-two teams will participate in the Santosh Trophy
with 28 unseeded teams divided into eight clusters where they
will play round-robin league in each cluster beginning
This time, the premier tournament will lose a bit of
sheen with 30 national team players training in Portugal for
the Asian Cup to be held in Doha, Qatar from January 7-29 next
In the opening day`s fixtures, Karnataka will take on
Meghalaya at Khardah in cluster one, while in cluster two,
Maharashtra will fight Chandigarh (Howrah Stadium) and Tripura
will lock horns with Andhra Pradesh (Barasat) to kick off the
The winners of each cluster will then battle it out in
the knock-out pre-quarterfinal stage for a place in the
From quarterfinal league onwards, the tournament will be
held on the artificial turf of the Yuba Bharati Krirangan in
The quarterfinal league will be held from July 29 to
August 4 while the semi-finals will be played on August 6.
Veteran coach Shabbir Ali said, "We have to win at any
cost, there is nothing else in mind. We are not looking back."
Bengal boast of veterans like Jayanta Sen, Abhijit
Mondal, Sandip Nandy ans Gouranga Datta.