New Delhi: In a boost to Asia's oldest football tournament, the Durand Cup, an NRI-owned London-based multi-national corporation, Anglian Holdings, has chipped in as a sponsor after mobile cellular giant Micromax pulled out of the event at the last minute.

Anglian Holdings, which is owned by an Indian entrepreneur Uday Narang and also holds 26 per cent stake at I-League side Shillong Lajong, termed its decision to associate with the third oldest football tournament in the world as an "emotional" one.

"We were shocked that Asia's oldest and world's third oldest tournament was struggling to find a sponsor. We heard about Micromax pulling out at the last minute. So we decided to pitch in to support the tournament. It was an emotional decision," Anglian Holdings chief strategic officer Sandeep Narang said.

The main round of the tournament will begin from August 23 at the Ambedkar Stadium here with the final scheduled for September 1.

Sandeep, brother of Uday, said this time the company was just supporting the Durand Cup by providing monetary support but would look for a long-term association in the future.

"The Indian Army which is holding the tournament through Durand Football Tournament Society is happy with our support. This time we are just giving financial help but we are looking at improving the profile of the tournament," Sandeep said.

"We will have a meeting with Durand Society people next month to discus how to raise the profile of the tournament. We are looking for a long-term association to jointly work with the strategic intent of enhancing the standards of the tournament via a marketing and promotional deal as well," he added.

Commenting on Anglian Holding's association with the 125th edition of the Durand Cup, Chairman Durand Football Tournament Society Lt General V K Pillai said, "We welcome Anglian Holdings into the folds of the Durand Cup as a co-sponsor and appreciate their gesture of coming forward to promote the prestigious tournament. We look forward to a long association for promoting football in the country."

The tournament had suffered a huge setback after main sponsors Micromax, which had promised Rs 35.5 lakh in writing, backed out in the last moment, citing over-spending in the
recently held five-match ODI cricket series between India and Sri Lanka as the reason.

This forced the organisers to reduce the overall budget, which was a whopping Rs 1.54 crore last year.

In the 125th edition of the tournament this year, the total prize money on offer is Rs 20 lakh - winners will get Rs 10 lakh, while runners-up will pocket Rs 5 lakh and semi-finalists Rs 2.5 lakh each. Whereas last year, the winner alone took home Rs 20 lakh, runners-up got Rs 10 lakh and semi-finalists received Rs 5 lakh each.

The tournament will be held in two phases - knock-out stage, which has already started from August 16 and quarter-final league round, which will commence on August 23.

In the knock-out round, 16 teams are fighting for three places up for grabs in the quarter-final league stage.
In the quarter-final league round, it will be a 12-team affair -- eight I-League teams (Pune FC, Air India, HAL, Pailan Arrows, Sporting Club de Goa, ONGC, Dodsal Mumbai and Sesa de Goa), three qualifying teams from knock-out round and one services team.

(Agencies)

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