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History of Dehradun Football

Dehra Dun is famous for public schools in the academic circle and for football in the sports arena. The football teams of the Doon valley brought fame for the place in the 60s and 70s to make it one of the premier football centers in the country. The dazzling performance by the Gorkha Brigade and the Gorkha Military School forced many football experts to dub Dehra Dun as the second football centre of India, next only to Calcutta.

The Initial Years

The history of soccer in Doon can be traced way back in the mid of the 18th century when this "game was played by the British troops stationed at Chakrata and Dehra Dun". (1) Chakrata cantonment was established in 1866. "Operation commenced in 1866, but no troops came until 1869, when some sappers were sent up."(2) The 2nd Gorkhas acquired the Birpur and Ganghora areas in 1872 to set up new cantonments. "The army's (British) biggest impact to English football has been overseas. In the years when football first emerged, the British Army was stationed on every continent and where the army went, so did football."(3) The year 1911 saw football receiving unprecedented popularity in British India. And even the Doon valley did not remained unaffected with the history victory of the Mohan Bagan against the East York Regiment in the final of the IFA Shiled-1911. 'When Mohan Bagan, led by Shibdas Bhaduri, prevailed over East York Regiment in the final of the IFA Shied in 1911, it was hailed as a blow struck not only for Indian football but also for Indian nationalism.'(4) The Dehra Dun Brigade football side became a formidable side in the British India. This is also proved by the fact that it was invited to play matches by different troops when the Dun Brigade contingent went to Germany during the First World War. (11) "With the outbreak of World War I, in 1914, both the regiments went overseas and saw action in Europe and the Middle East. The 2nd Battalion of the of the 2nd Gurkhas came back to India in 1916 after eighteen months service overseas." (12) The other regimen to participate in the World War First was 9th Gorkha Rifles. Its two battalion were stationed in Doon. Football gained so much popularity after1911 in the Doon valley that when Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) came here to inaugurate the Royal Indian Military College (now known as the Rashtriya Indian Military Academy) in 1922 one of his engagements included felicitating an army football team. "He (Prince) also presented the Gorkha Brigade Football Cup to the 9th Gorkhas team which was won by it a few days earlier."(5)

District League Begins

As time passed by, football gained greater popularity in the Doon valley. "The year 1937 saw the formation of the Dehradun District Sports Association (DDSA). Rev. Bro. RM Ewing became the first president and AE Foot the first general secretary of the DDSA." (6) The association started hosting a district football league in which local football clubs, central government institutes and army teams began to participate thus giving a boost to the game here. Former Sergeant Donald C. Thyer of the Royal Engineers Survey writes about his 1945 to 1947 experience in Dehra Dun, "The most popular recreational pastime pursued by BORs (British Other Rank) from both a player and spectator perspective was football. A small inter-service football league was established including teams from the Indian Military Academy and the 4th Ghurkha Regiment. The Ghurkhas always put on a good show in that they played the game in their bare feet." (7)


"The two decades spanning from 1950 belonged to the Doon football. The Army teams, posted here at that period, in particular boosted the standard of the game with their splendid performances at the national level tournaments." (8) After the independence the most cherishing moment for the local football lovers came in 1950 when the 48th Gorkhas, based here at that time, reached the finals of the DCM Football Tournament in New Delhi. The 48th Gorkhas lost in the final (replay) 2-0 to football giants from Calcutta, the East Bengal Club. "The 48th Gorkhas, based here at that time, hogged the limelight by securing runners up place at the DCM Football Tournament (New Delhi) for three consecutive years, 1950, 51 & 52."(9) In 1951 the 48th Gorkhas lost narrowly to Rajasthan Club by a solitary gaol in the DCM final. While, the 1952 DCM final saw the East Bengal thrashing 48th Gorkhas 4-0. The most remarkable performance came in 1953 when the Indian Military Academy (IMA) reached the finals of the prestigious Durand Cup football tournament in New Delhi. Though the IMA side lost to Mohan Bagan 4-0 but the heroic performance made the Dehra Dun youths fall in love with soccer. In 1958, the Gorkha Brigade became the second Dehra Dun team to reach the final of the Durand Cup. It lost to Madras Regimental Centre 2-0.


Dehra Dun became one of the major super powers on Indian football in 1966, when the Gorkha Brigade won the Durand Cup defeating the Sikh Regiment 2-0. Leaving behind the sour taste of the 1958 final defeat, the Gorkha Brigade played like a champion to lift the glittering Durand Cup-1966. Reporting about the final The Times of India, 12 January 1966, edition wrote, " Sikh Regiment Centre, Meerut, made it a tough and honorable fight all the way, but had to bow to the inevitable and scoring once in each half, Gorkha Brigade lifted the handsome Durand Football Cup for the first time at the Corporation Stadium today." "The Sikhs were a determined lot when they entered the field, but their confidence was shattered in the very second minute when the well-smoothened Gorkha quintet surprised them with a gem of a goal, hallmark of perfect understanding and superb execution," narrated The Hindu daily on 12 January 1966. The year 1969 saw the Gorkha Brigade clinching the Durand Cup for the second time. On the win Times of India 18 January 1969 edition writes, " The nippy Gorkhas from Dehra Dun had their names inscribed on the glittering 'Durand Football Trophy' for the second time when they laid low champions Border Security Force by a solitary second-half goal in the thrilling replayed final at the Corporation Stadium here today." Praising the BSF defence the same periodical said, " The energetic Shyam Singh Thapa often hoodwinked the BSF defenders and it was some good work by Gurcharan Singh and Gian Singh that kept him away from a dangerous position for quiet some time." The standards of the local football was lifted high with institutes like the Indian Institute of Petroleum, OFD Factory, Survey of India, Electricity Department, etc recruiting many local players. The district football league was a major draw.


The Junior Subroto Cup was started in 1960 and Dehra Dun junior teams reached the finals of this national school football tournament seven times from its inception to 1972. "Keeping this winning streak at the junior level, local Gorkha Military School gave memorable performances by lifting the Subroto Cup title in 1964 and 65. While, the Gorkha Boys Company claimed the Subroto Cup three times in 1969, 70 and 72." (10) The Gorkha Military School incepted history by securing runners up spot in the 1961 Subroto Cup. The school team from Dehra Dun lost to Rani Rashmani High School (Calcutta) in the final 2-0. In 1964 the Gorkha Military School hogged limelight once again for winning the Subroto Cup. Next year the same school shared the Subroto trophy with the Shri KAB Vidyalaya (Hazaribagh). In 1969 the Gorkha Boys Company (Dehra Dun) made its mark in the Subroto cup by winning it. No local football lover will forget 1970 as the Subroto Cup final turned out to be an all Dehra Dun affair. The Gorkha Boys Company edged out Gorkha Military School 2-1 to annex the trophy. The overall standards of football at the school level was simply outstanding with public schools like the St Joseph's Academy, The Doon School, St Georges College (Mussoorie), etc giving top priority to football.


The 58 Gorkha Training Centre, 39 Gorkha Training Centre and 11 Gorkha Rifles Regimental Centre of the Gorkha Brigade was transferred from Dehra Dun in 1976 to give serious blow to football promotion here. The 58 Gorkha Training Centre was transferred to Shillong, 39 Gorkha Training Centre to Varanasi and 11 Gorkha Rifles Regimental Centre to Lucknow. Dehra Dun football became orphan like after the departure of the Gorkha Brigade.


After the exit of the Gorkha Brigade from Dehra Dun, local football club Jubilant Jyothi FC broke the jinks in 1976. The side led by striker Ratan Thapa registered first title victory abroad, in Nepal. Jubilant Jyothi FC of Dehradun defeated Darjeeling XI to lift the 'Birthday Cup' in Kathmandu. But after the Birthday Cup victory a long wait started and it still continues. Dehra Dun football is looking for a major victory in the national football championship to establish itself in Indian soccer.


The District Football Association is keeping alive one of the oldest football leagues in the country. That is the only achievement of the District Football Association. Many football promotion activities are simply not taking place. After the formation of Uttaranchal in 2000 the tussle between various groups started to head the District Football Association. The dispute continues and it is being considered a bad omen for local football. CONCLUSION Dehra Dun football is a sleeping giant. The talents exist and so do the past proven record. The need is to adopt the simple system adopted by the Gorkha Brigade, create sports environment and performance will follow automatically. So, for Dehra Dun football the Goal 2020 is sports environment should be developing sporting system of its own.


  1. ARTICLE: Football in Dehra Dun by RM Jindal, DDSA diamond jubilee souvenir 1997
  2. BOOK: Gazetteer of Dehra Dun by HG Walton (1910 edition), Page 210
  3. WEB REPORT: Spreading football via the British Army by David Goldblatt, (February 2004) http://www.footballculture.britishcouncil.or.th/history/history_army.html
  4. BOOK: Wills Book of Excellent football (1986 edition), Page 37
  5. BOOK: The Doon valley down the ages by Prem Hari Hari Lal (1993), Page 233
  6. DDSA diamond jubilee souvenir 1997
  7. WEB REPORT: http://www.britains-smallwars.com/India/Survey.htm
  8. 8, 9 and 10: REPORT: Football losing in Doon, Hindustan Times, February 17, 2005
  9. EMAIL: Dehra Dun brigade playing the game in France in July 1915 from Hedley Sutton, British Library (London)
  10. BOOK: The Doon valley down the ages by Prem Hari Hari Lal (1993), Page 230
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