Defender Caitano Costa will lead Pune Football Club at the 126th edition of the Durand Cup in New Delhi.
The third oldest football competition in the world,like in the past,continues to remain Pune FCs preferred season opener as it was the first national-level meet the team played after coming into existence in 2007. This is the fifth time Pune FC will feature in the tournament.
Seeded directly into the quarterfinal group stage,Pune FC is grouped along with Army Red and former I-League side ONGC FC in Group-IV. Pune FC will begin its campaign against Army Red on September 9 and then take on ONGC on September 13 at the Ambedkar Stadium.
To date,Pune FCs best-ever performance in the tournament came in the 2011 edition when they made it to the semifinals.
The team,this year,is a mix of senior and Pune Football Club Academy (PFCA) under-19 players. The senior team players include skipper Caitano Costa,goalkeeper Shahinlal Meloly,Gobin Singh and striker Prakash Thorat. The team includes four Pune-based players – Harshad Lunawat,Rushab Dhere,Vikas Zanze and Thorat.
Ranjan Chowdhury,Pune FCs head of youth development,said though the Durand Cup would be a tough assignment,it would help his young side. Its a tough mission for the boys and certainly a platform that will help them grow and prove their mettle. The opportunity is a huge one for all the youngsters. We are hoping for the best.
Pune FC goes into the championship with the hope to top the group and make it to the semifinals. Last year,Pune FC made their exit in the group stage after two draws against Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and Sesa FA.
This year,the championship offers an increased prize purse. The winners stand to gain Rs 25 lakh,while runners-up will get Rs 15 lakh. The two semifinalists will get Rs 5 lakh each.