Football in Goa has always been more than a sport. In a country where cricket rules the roost, Goa defies the odds. With fans turning out in large numbers to cheer on the home side – FC Goa in the second season of the Indian Super League, SULLIVAN NORONHA snoops around and gets their opinion
The second edition of the Hero Indian Super League has sent the State into a frenzy, with people running helter-skelter to find innovative ways to cheer on their home team – FC Goa. Having effected an incredible comeback in the premier edition of the tournament to finish second in the league table and qualify for the semi-finals, the team fell marginally short of the pinnacle as they lost out to eventual winners, Atletico de Kolkata, in a penalty shootout.
The management of the team decided to retain the services of legendary Brazilian, Zico as the head coach. Having a free reign this time around, the Brazilian hand-picked a team complete with Indian and foreign players as he brought in a host of players from his home country to add some flavour to the squad.
From the very beginning, fans were delirious over the signings, which seemed to complement the talents of the Indian footballers to make the squad a potentially title winning one.
Despite their poor start to the tournament last year, fans went out in large numbers to support their team. With increasing decibels at each match, players – both foreign and national – were astounded at the support. Banners, chants, vuvuzelas and innovative get-ups was the theme for every match. FC Goa managed to do the unthinkable – it got supporters of various international clubs come together for one reason.
Jeson Dias, a football enthusiast from Margao, said, “FC Goa has brought Goans together. People who aren’t that into football also come out in numbers to watch the matches. The I-league didn’t manage to do that as much. But considering Goans and their love for the game, maybe this will help make the sport even more popular.”
The same kind of support was on show for the first couple of games of the new season. Keith Noronha, an ardent Gooner, watched a number of matches live last year, and it wasn’t any different this year as he made his way to Fatorda for the season opener. “The fan atmosphere was good. Probably not as good as it was last year, but the faithful were there with their drums and their ghumots, cheering in the south stand, passionately and yes, loud,” he said.
Analysing the first game, Keith explained, “I felt marquee man Lucio did an excellent job at the back, thus allowing Gregory a free run forward. Our midfield wasn’t as good though. There were a lot of spaces in between which allowed the opposition to bomb forward periodically.”
Due to the sheer volume of fans who rush to buy tickets, coupled with the low capacity of the stadium, many are left disappointed. However, big screens are put up at various restaurants around the state and match screenings are held.
Savio Pereira, event manager at Fantasia no Cantinho de Vovo, a restaurant in Panjim, organises such screenings at a very generous cover charge. “For those who aren’t able to get tickets, they always have live screenings. The atmosphere here is crazy. Fans shouting, screaming, chanting and jumping around pretty much creates a stadium-like atmosphere,” he remarked.
Menino DeSouza made his way to Fatorda for the opening game to see Delhi Dynamos’ coach-player, Roberto Carlos in action. “I have always supported Brazil on the international front. To see Carlos live is something I would never have dreamt of. Besides, I’m also a Chelsea FC fan and I got to get a glimpse of Florent Malouda,” he asserted.
The love for FC Goa isn’t confined to just the State. Goans abroad and in other cities of India fly the orange and blue flag high. “Being away from Goa and not being able to watch the match live is a really sad feeling. I do, however, make it a point to come home early from work on match days and plonk myself in front of the TV,” said Elroy Figueiredo, the founder of Arsenalites, a group of Goan Gooners. Figueiredo, with the penchant for analyses, also said, “I feel this team can go further than it did last year. They had a good pre-season and the squad seems to be gelling well. The Indian lads have been impressive too.”
Alison Albuquerque, who lives in Mumbai, has similar hopes for the team. “I had the chance to meet Robert Pires last year. It was a dream come true for me, spending the day with him. It was sad that the team didn’t make it to the finals last year. This year though, the team looks stronger. I won’t be surprised if we win the title,” she said.
The FC Goa fans, in this season, have done what no other team has. They’ve created a mascot, named ‘Gaurdinho’ and an anthem for the team. The anthem (Dii Tekha) is sung loud and proud in the stadium and can be heard all over the State.
Conrad Barreto, the founder of football group, The Football Dugout (TFDO), worked hard in collaboration with musician Varun Carvalho, who created the Forca Goa chant, to come up with the song. When asked how he came up with the concept, Barreto said, “TFDO was in constant touch with Varun with regard to fan activation. So we decided to come up with an anthem. We created polls on the Facebook group asking for suggestions on language and content, etc. One of the members, Hillary Gomes wrote the lyrics of the song with our own tag line of ‘Dii Tekha’. It’s a punchline Goa is very familiar with and is used with aggression. We took it up with the management of the team, who loved the connection of the words with Goa as a whole. Varun did the vocals for the songs thereafter. For the ‘Forca Goa’ part, we used a lot of fan vocals. After a lot of sleepless nights, we finally got it done.”
Regarding the mascot, the first of its kind in the ISL, Barreto noted, “We called our mascot Gaurdinho. So he’s a Gaur, which happens to be our state animal, and we added a little samba touch to his name considering the Brazilian flavour in the team. We’re the only one out of the eight franchises to have a mascot. The fans love him and during rallies, he’s the talk of the town.”
Streets are painted blue, there’s music playing everywhere, car bonnets donning the crest of the team, stickers on bikes and flags sticking out of windows – this is Goa during the ISL. It’s safe to assume that Goa loves football and football loves Goa. Forca Goa!