The Stafford Challenge Cup 2023
One of India’s oldest tournaments (and South India’s oldest), the Staffordshire Regiment presented a huge silver cup to be played on an all-India basis. It was a knock-out tournament and was named after the regiment and christened as the Stafford Challenge Cup.
It was first conducted in 1938 when Wiltshire Regiment won it and repeated the act the next year as well. In 1941, Bangalore Muslims broke the domination of the British regimental teams by winning it while Bangalore Sporting won it in 1942. But it was in 1943 when there was a bigger surprise as Mysore Rovers emerged as the champions. From 1944 to 1949, Sullivan Police were the undisputed champions. HAL (1952), Binny Mills (1954), Bangalore Blues (1956), LRDE (1957), Mysore State Police (1958 and 1961), MEG & CENTRE (1966), CIL (1967 and 1971) are the other Bangalore teams which cornered glory. Though ITI won major tournaments in India, the Stafford Cup eluded them until they won it in 1993, the last time the tournament was held.
The tournament got International flavor in 1980, when the Iraqi Youth Club came and conquered the cup and the hearts of football lovers as they beat East Bengal in the final at the overflowing Chinnaswamy Stadium. Iraq Air Force (1982), Students Club, Iraq (1984), Iraq Olympic Team (1990), were the other foreign teams which triumphed. Unfortunately, in 1984 the silverware went to Iraq and was never returned, as it was believed to have been destroyed in the Gulf War between Iran and Iraq. Dempo (Goa), Orkay Mills (Bombay), Mohd. Sporting, East Bengal and Mohun Bagan (all Calcutta) have also produced some outstanding displays in front of packed galleries with Mohun Bagan not having won it at all in their history. Mohd. Sporting and East Bengal have shared it once and have won it individually as well.
The Stafford Cup final was a ‘must see’ event for the sporting fraternity of Bangalore which turned up in thousands to witness the semi-finals and the final when held at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium or the Chinnaswamy Stadium.