Ahmedabad: Ahmedabad will host Santosh Trophy football matches for the first time starting Monday, with seven teams from India’s West Zone vying for two spots in the 72nd Senior National Football Championship.

Gujarat will face Rajasthan in the opening encounter of the tournament, which will be inaugurated by chief minister Vijay Rupani and feature nine matches over five days at Arena TransStadia at Maninagar. They are joined by Goa in Group A, while Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Lakshadweep and Daman and Diu have been placed in Group B.

“(The Santosh Trophy) is a good chance for budding and aspiring footballers of Gujarat to watch senior and experienced players from other states, particularly from Goa and Maharashtra, and they will draw inspiration from them. I hope such a prestigious event will help in making the game more popular in the state,” said Dhanraj Nathwani, president of the Gujarat State Football Association (GSFA).

The Santosh Trophy is contested by state associations and government institutions and is governed by the All India Football Federation (AIFF). Under the rules, each team is required to have five developmental players who are below 21 years of age, of which three need to be on the field during each match.

The GSFA organized a 20-day camp for the state team, which included 10 days in Junagadh and the rest in Ahmedabad, Nathwani said. “For the first time, we have roped in a coach from outside Gujarat. Kundan Chandra, an ex-Services player, has been providing training and guidance to the players, while local coach Anilpal Tomar has been appointed assistant coach. I am confident that the results of the training and hard work of both the players and the coaches will reflect in the game,” he said.