Defender Costa to lead Pune FC in Durand Cup

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New Delhi: Experienced defender Caitano Costa will lead Pune Football Club at the 126th edition of Durand Cup here, the club announced today."The third oldest football competition in the world continues to remain Pune FC's top-priority season opener as it was the first national-level meet the team played after coming into existence in 2007," the club said in a statement.This is the fifth time Pune FC will figure in the tournament.Seeded directly into the quarterfinal group stage, Pune FC features along with Army Red and former I-League side ONGC FC in Group-IV.Pune FC start their campaign against Army Red on September 9 and then takes on ONGC on September 13 at the Ambedkar Stadium.Pune FC's 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 Peninsula Pune Football Club Academy (PPFCA) Under-19 players.The seniors 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 apart from Thorat.Ranjan Chowdhury, Pune FC Youth Head said: "It's a tough mission for the boys and certainly a platform that will help them grow and prove their mettle. The opportunity is a once in a life time one for all the youngsters. We are hoping for the best and the boys are geared up to put their best foot forward."The championship offers an increased prize purse with winners stand to gain Rs 25 lakhs, while runners-up will get Rs 15 lakh. The two semifinalists will get Rs 5 lakh each.

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