The Santosh Trophy, officially known as Hero Senior Men's National Football Championship due to sponsorship ties with Hero MotoCorp, is a knock-out semi-professional football competition contested by the state associations and government institutions under the All India Football Federation (AIFF), the sport's governing body in India. Before the starting of the first national club league, the National Football League in 1996, the Santosh Trophy was considered the top domestic honour in India. Many players who have represented India internationally, played and gained honour while playing in the Santosh Trophy. The tournament is held every year with 37 teams, who are divided into five zones, must play in the qualifying round and progress into the tournament proper. The current champions are Kerala, who won their seventh title during the 2021–2022 edition.
|Number of teams|
|Current champions||Kerala (7th title)|
|Most successful team(s)||West Bengal (32 titles)|
|Television broadcasters||SportsCast India |
AIFF (Facebook live streaming)
|Website||Hero Senior NFC|
|2021–22 Santosh Trophy|
The tournament was started in 1941 by Indian Football Association (IFA), which was the then de facto governing body of football in India, and was named after the then president of the IFA, Sir Manmatha Nath Roy Chowdhury, the Maharaja of Santosh. The IFA later donated the Santosh Trophy to the AIFF, soon after its formation as the sport's official governing body in India, and since then AIFF has been organising the tournament. The trophy for the runner-up, Kamala Gupta Trophy, was also donated by the then president of IFA, Dr. S.K. Gupta, and it was named in honour of his wife. The third-place trophy, Sampangi Cup, was donated by the Karnataka State Football Association (then Mysore Football Association) and was named so in the memory of a renowned footballer, Sampangi, who was from Mysore. Until 2018, the tournament was organised as an individual competition, but since 2021, the AIFF rebranded it as the men's senior tier of National Football Championship for the regional teams of various age groups.
The Santosh Trophy was started in 1941 after the then president of the Indian Football Association, Sir Manmatha Nath Roy Chowdhary of Santosh and later, Sir Satish Chandra Chowdhury donated the trophy to the All India Football Federation. At the time of the first tournament, India lacked a proper main championship for football teams. The other major nationwide football competitions at the time were Durand Cup, Rovers Cup and IFA Shield which were competed by the football clubs. In 1990, in an attempt to bring through more younger players, the AIFF made the Santosh Trophy into an under-23 competition. This move only lasted for three seasons before the tournament was reverted to a senior competition.
During his time as the head coach of India, Bob Houghton called for the tournament to be discontinued and that it was a waste of time and talent. He was more aggressive against the tournament after India striker Sunil Chhetri injured himself in the 2009 Santosh Trophy and had to miss the Nehru Cup. As a result, national team players were not allowed to participate in the tournament, which was also eventually reverted. In 2013 it was revealed that the AIFF decided that players from top-tier clubs would be barred from participating in the Santosh Trophy but numerous players from the reserve and the youth sides of I-League and Indian Super League, participate in the tournament for game-time. The tournament still is regarded as a suitable platform for young players to attract the eyes of scouts of major clubs in the country.
The following teams have participated in the tournament and are still states, union territories, or organizations.
- Andaman and Nicobar Islands
- Andhra Pradesh
- Arunachal Pradesh
- Daman and Diu
- Dadra and Nagar Haveli
- Himachal Pradesh
- Jammu and Kashmir
- Madhya Pradesh
- Tamil Nadu
- Uttar Pradesh
- West Bengal
The following is the list of winners and runners-up from every edition of the Santosh Trophy
|West Bengal (inc. Bengal)||32||14||2016–17|
|Maharashtra (inc. Bombay)||4||12||1999–00|
|Karnataka (inc. Mysore)||4||5||1968–69|
|Andhra Pradesh (inc. Hyderabad)||3||3||1965–66|
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