The 32nd edition of the Federation Cup, India's version of the FA Cup, is currently being held with the semifinal line-up now complete. The quarterfinal group stage saw four groups of four teams each facing each other across three venues. While Cuttack has hosted two of the four groups, the two other groups were played in Ludhiana, Punjab and Goa's Vasco. This was a new format as in the last few years one venues used to host all 16 teams.
The first semifinal will see Group A winners East Bengal Club taking on Group B toppers Churchill Brothers SC on Wednesday, September 29. A day later Group C winners Dempo SC take on record champions Mohun Bagan AC, who won Group D. So it will be two Kolkata vs Goa semifinals with all equations of a Kolkata vs Goa or local Goa or Kolkata finals possible.
Cuttack's Barabati Stadium is set to host the semifinals and final, but the local organisers the Orissa Football Association has been criticised for the lack of necessary infrastructure, accommodation and medical facilities. Training facilities are said to be not up to the mark, while some teams are staying in the state capital Bhubaneswar, which is about an hours drive away, due to lack of quality hotels. And then there is the issue of medical readiness at the ground. In a group match Mumbai FC's Faizal Rehman M.A. went unconscious and it needed over 15 minutes for an ambulance to come to the spot to take the player for a proper medical check-up. It seems football organisers in India still haven't learned from the on ground death of Brazilian Cristiano in December 2004.
Defending champions East Bengal under new English coach Trevor Morgan are in terrific form. The Kolkata giants came into the tournament with an all win record in the Calcutta Premier Division and they kept their 100% record intact winning their three group matches to top Group A and qualify for the semifinals. The surprise of the group was that promoted I-League side HAL beat Pune FC in their opening match and finished second in the group ahead of Pune FC and Air India.
It was a close affair between Churchill Brothers SC and Chirag United SC in a generally tight group as the Goans pipped the Kolkata side on goal difference both having a win and two draws to their names, while the two other sides Sesa Football Academy and Viva Kerala finished with two draws and a loss.
As expected I-League champions Dempo SC came out on top of Group C in Ludhiana. It was an interesting group with local giants JCT, I-League newcomers ONGC and newly formed India Under-20 XI testing the might of Dempo's, but in the end the experienced side from Goa prevailed with two wins and a draw. ONGC finished a strong second, only losing their match against Dempo's; while India Junior XI finished third ahead of a disappointing JCT, who have lost numerous key players in the transfer period and need to regroup ahead of the I-League.
Record champions Mohun Bagan AC in the end made it from Group D with a thumping 6-1 win against closest contender Salgaocar SC after a shaky start with a 1-0 win against Shillong Lajong FC and a goalless draw against Mumbai FC. Salgaocar only needed a draw to move on, but the Goans were no match against the green-and-maroon on fire. Last year finalists Shillong Lajong FC finished third ahead of bottom rung Mumbai FC.