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Durand Cup: Army veterans jump from 65-floor tower to celebrate homecoming

Source: PTI
July 25, 2023 22:02 IST
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IMAGE: The 132nd edition of the tournament is set to take place between August 3 and September 3. Photograph: Kind courtesy ISL Media

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon at the slush-filled Maidan, the coveted Durand Cup trophy received a grand welcome with two retired Army officers showing their daredevilry by jumping from the city's tallest building -- The 42 -- a 65-floor, 260-metre landmark.

With the rain refusing to relent, the organisers of the world's third oldest football tournament announced that the much-anticipated 'BASE jump' stunt was "cancelled because of bad weather".

But as the weather cleared a bit towards the evening, Group Captain Kamal Singh Oberh and Lt. Col. Satyendra Verma did not want to disappoint the hundred-odd crowd, who stood patiently pointing their mobile cameras at The 42.

Oberh, who has experience of more than 1450-plus jumps, set the ball rolling with his precise jump at 4:12pm, following a delay of more than two hours.

As loud cheers filled the arena, 13 minutes later Lt. Col Verma landed at the Brigade Ground in Maidan.

Unlike parachuting and skydiving, BASE jumping is performed from a fixed object with much lower altitude and requires more precision, and here a single parachute is used.

"This is an extreme adventure sport and I just have exactly two seconds to open the parachute. If I don't open the parachute in time, I will hit the ground in seven seconds," Lt. Col. Verma said. This was his 57th jump.

"The margin for error hence is zero, you have to time it perfectly and get the direction, so that you can land precisely.


"So I cannot open the parachute just after jumping. Then I don't have enough speed for the parachute to open. So I have to give it some time -- it cannot be three seconds or four seconds," added Verma, whose first jump was in 2009 from the 421-metre tall KL Tower in Malaysia.

For Jammu's Obreh, this was his 159th BASE jump.

"It was at the same Brigade Ground I had conducted a para drop during the silver jubilee celebrations of the 1971 war. To jump at this very place is really special.

"Overall, weather was gloomy so we just kept praying to give us a small window to jump, and it happened."

He aims to perform a similar stunt from the Chenab Rail Bridge in his home state. It's the world's longest steel and concrete arch bridge located between Bakkal and Kauri in the Reasi district of Jammu. While the construction is completed, the rail service is yet to start.

"To do such an act in front of my home crowd will be really special, I'm looking forward to that day."

The Durand Cup entered the city after a nationwide 14-city tour, which included some of the most prominent and picturesque Tri-Service bases as well as the home of the defending champions, Bengaluru FC, and the two other host cities of Guwahati and Kokrajhar.

The trophy has been to places like Dehradun, the home of the Indian Military Academy, Udhampur (HQ Northern Command), Jaipur (HQ South-Western Command), Pune (National Defence Academy), Mumbai (HQ Western Naval Command), Karwar Naval Base, Naval Academy (Ezhimala), Kochi (HQ Southern Naval Command), Bengaluru (Army Service Corps Centre), Air Force Academy (Hyderabad), Guwahati, Gen Bipin Rawat Military Garrison at Kibithu, Shillong and Kokrajhar, before returning to its final base, Kolkata.

The 132nd edition of the tournament is set to take place between August 3 and September 3.

Indian Super League reigning champions Mohun Bagan Super Giant will face Bangladesh Army at the iconic Salt Lake Stadium in the tournament opener.

First played in 1888, Durand Cup is the oldest football competition in Asia and the third-oldest in the world.

Twenty-four teams, four more than the year before, and including 12 from the ISL, will vie for top honours.

This year's tournament will also see the participation of foreign teams after a gap of 27 years, with the Army teams of Nepal and Bangladesh in attendance.

The tournament will witness 43 matches with the final to be played on September 3.

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