WILL THOSE GLORY DAYS COME BACK
It used to be a cultural icon but has now lost its way a bit. Goan football does not evoke the sense of awe it did a decade or two ago. Will the young players honing their skills in the academies in the state bring back the glory to the state? The Café spoke to people who are involved in the training of the young and who were more than keen to share their views
When Camilo Gonsalves scored the goal off that Herbert San pass in 1984 it helped Goa win the Santosh Trophy for the very first time. It also opened the eyes of the country to the magic of football, Goan style. Over the next decade or two the state gave the country, players of the calibre of BrahmanandSankhwalkar , Mahesh Gawli, Bruno Coutinho, Armando Colaco, Derrick Pereira and Savio Madeira to name just a few. The Indian team used to have a strong Goan contingent. Skilful and full of verve the Goan footballer spoke a language then unheard in the country’s football fields. Like everything in life however, time flies. The number of Goan players in the national team is down to the odd one in eleven. Can Goan football rediscover its magic? Are there young boys in the junior ranks who will one day help take Goa to the heights of glory?
The sun is doing its job with great passion at 4 oclock. The venue is the grounds of Don Bosco Panjim. The summer football camp is on for sub junior and junior players. The ground is full of players in the age group from 7 years to 12 years. Running after footballs and watched with much interests by coaches and parents. Paul Bast has been organising these camps for a couple of years. He has watched young talent blossom in front of him. Paul was categorical when he said “‘there is a lot of talent in the state though I will say there is more talent in the players in the south than in the north”. Asked why that was so, he smiled and said it was perhaps due to the large number of inter-village tournaments that were held in the south. This leads to a continuous sharpening of skills under the heat of competition. The basic skills of the kids in Goa he felt was decent and now with several academies having been launched in the state which was helping matters. Now they are catching the talent early and importantly opportunities, he felt was increasing with the number of I league teams being part of the tournament. Paul said “Go into any village and you will find kids with very good ball control skills. They hold on to the ball and they don’t give it up. There is a bit of the South American flavour”. When asked why Goan players were not making it to the national teams anymore, he was candid when he said “You have to understand, there are several opportunities for Goan footballers, if they don’t make it, they go to the gulf or leave for England or Portugal. The north east player does not have such an option. He has to battle every step of the way to make his dream come true. That dream involves a decent salary which will help him feed his poverty-stricken family. There are not many opportunities in terms of employment for young boys and football is that one avenue open to him. Remember natural talent can take you to a certain level but then after that it is all about the hunger in the belly. With the odd exception how many Goan boys have that will to fight. The Manipuri boy will fight till his last breadth.” Despite all these problems, he said the average young Goan player was fantastic at one touch football and the future of Goan football was very bright. With good coaches’in place, the future was bright. Like everything in India, there is a flip side for every argument. A senior executive involved in the coaching academy who did not want to come on record due to the sensitivities involved. He said “One has to consider the facts on the ground. In the 80’s how many states had an organised system, today look at the north east for example, they have excellent equipment and facilities. Then one has to also look at the quality of life. In Goa, the distractions are way too many. There are so many options in life in terms of employment and entertainment. Many of the u-12-14-16 players can get lost. In the north east, similar options are not available. Its football, that one option that will pull them out of poverty. They have the drive to take them forward. Our boys have talent, I am at practise sessions and I am stunned at some of the stuff our young boys can do with a ball but that drive to go ahead is wafer thin in many of them. The ones who make it are motivated but sadly not many are making it through the system”. He went on to point out another crucial factor that was having an effect on the junior game. The drying up of opportunities. Earlier he said, one had Dempo, Salgaoncar , Sporting, Vasco in the I league which meant opportunities for Goan players and technical staff. Each club he said had around 40 players which worked out to around 160 players amongst all the teams who all earned very good salaries. Now in the I league with the foreign coaches who all wanted foreign technical staff, there were hardly 5 to 6 Goan personnel. It had, he said gotten tougher. From a time when players could earn up to Rs 30 lakhs a year to a mere Rs 3 lakhs per year, it was very tight. The senior executive said he always felt sad when he had parents inform him that their son would not be able to continue due to the demands of the 10th or 12th standard exams. Approximately 50 percent in Goa according to him stop playing the game to focus on studies. Perhaps amidst all this depressing talk, it would make sense to talk to a young boy who plays the game for the love of it. Kurt Costa of Caranzalem has been coming to the Don Bosco football camp from April 3rd. He loves the game with a passion and practises it everyday at home in the garden. Like any kid his age, watches the Champions trophy with a passion and one day hopes to be a mid-fielder playing in an international club in India. Another kid at the camp Troy Da Silva comes all the way from Carambolim hopes to be like Xavi some day and score crucial goals. His parents had enrolled him in training programme in Pilar, which Velina the mother said was stopped. she said “We were left in a tight corner but thankfully initiatives like this are helping”. ValeriesGonzalves a mother at the Don Bosco camp said “Undoubtedly there is talent in the state but t has to be continuous affair round the year. If my son has the talent and can make it as a professional player, I will certainly ensure that all the opportunities are made available for him”. It must be remembered that for every 100 odd players in a training academy, only one or possibly two can make it as a player. And that will depend on the level of hunger exhibited by the player. The youngsters training in the camps around Goa can take heart from the fact that Hansel Coelho a junior was part of the India schools team recently. Anil Chavan of Sesa football Academy has been picked up by an ISL team and will play next year. Perhaps the final word should go to Sukhvinder Singh, Chief Executive Officer - Football ProjectVedanta ,Sesa Goa Iron Ore who agreed that the state had seen its hey day when 10-12 players were in the first level and now the plot had been lost. Today the representative in the national team was down to just one. In the squad for the u-17 world cup squad there was not even one player. He said “Hunger from within is very important and that is something that has to come from you. We have very good training academies but it will take time for the next generation to blossom. There is talent without a doubt. Perhaps we can end by quoting Marshwan Lynch who though was talking about American football could also be talking about soccer when he said “ Iain’t got nothing to say. I just wanna play football” Amen to that.
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