The historic IFA shield is all set to start from November 24th in Kolkata as sources close to The Bridge can confirm. Organized by IFA, the governing body for football in West Bengal, the tournament is the second oldest football tournament in the country and the fourth oldest completion in the world. It involves elite clubs from within Kolkata and also outside the state as special invitees.
The 124th edition of the IFA shield tournament will include Real Kashmir FC, Gokulam Kerala FC, Indian Arrows, Sreenidhi Deccan FC, and Hyderabad FC Reserves as the invited participants.
Challengers from the I-League
Other I-League outfits like reigning I-League champions Gokulam Kerala FC and Indian Arrows will also aim to stake a claim. In addition, I-League newcomers Sreenidhi Deccan FC are going to be a part of the tournament. The team is newly-built and coached by former GKFC head-coach Fernando Santiago Varela. The tournament will be a great platform for the outfit to gauge their strengths and weaknesses ahead of their debut campaign in the I-League.
The Indian Super League representation
Hyderabad FC are the only team from the Indian Super League that will be part of the competition. However, they will send their reserves squad, which by no means suggests that the Nizams will not pose a tough challenge. They possess one of the best young squads full of exceptional local talent. It will be interesting to see how HFC lines up in the tournament and it will be a great platform for the youngsters to prove themselves.
CFL teams that will aim to cause an upset
The Calcutta Football League (CFL) teams that will take participate in the tournament are Mohammedan SC, Bhawanipore AC, Calcutta Customs, United Sports Club, Aryan FC, Khidderpore SC, last year's finalists George Telegraph, Peerless SC, Railway FC, Southern Samity and BSS Sporting.
The CFL teams will aim to showcase their qualities by coming up against strong teams from outside. Real Kashmir FC won the tournament last time around and will look to defend their crown against strong opposition. They defeated George Telegraph in the final by a 2-1 scoreline, with Lukman Adefemi and Mason Robertson the scorers. The Snow Leopards will have a tough time as the reigning champions but will back themselves to defend the title.
The group stage matches are scheduled to be played across the East Bengal Ground, Mohun Bagan Ground, Naihati Stadium and the Kalyani Stadium while the IFA plans to organize the final in the gallant Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Stadium.