ALLAN VALENTINO D’CRUZ
PANJIM: Joyson Gauncar’s second half strike was enough for Panjim Footballers to clinch their historic Goa Police Cup with a narrow 1-0 win over favourites Dempo SC at Duler on Wednesday.
The goal was scored midway in the second half. And when the referee blew the final whistle, the players ran down on the pitch celebrating in joy and so did the support and coaching staff. But the club owner Anju (Angelo) Albuquerque, who watched the game from the stands, was left glued to his seat.
The veteran football administrator seated in silence as the crowd stood to applaud the champions and even before Herald could approach the club owner, he vanished in the crowd.
There are very many instances in which the underdogs have gone on to win the trophy and for Panjim this has been a similar journey. Dempo might have dominated the game, but ultimately it's the end result that matters and on Wednesday night, Panjim managed to do it by the narrowest margin.
For the hundreds of odd spectators gathered to witness the final, it was just a regular football final. But for Panjim, it was their historic moment. It was their first major football title ever since its inception in 1978.
From a small city club playing inter-village tournaments, to GFA age group tournaments, Panjim Footballers have now scripted their name among the top Goan clubs winning Goa’s top most and only knockout tournament - Goa Police Cup.
However, when Herald contacted Anju, he was short of words. “I just don’t know what to say. We are champions and I am proud of my team and their achievement,” stated Anju revealing that he went for a drive to enjoy the moment all by himself as it was an emotional evening for him after his team's triumph.
“As a founder of the club, we won many inter-village and GFA titles. But winning Goa’s top knockout tournament where we had top Goan clubs playing is something very special. This is not an easy tournament and I am proud of the team, players and coaching staff for what they have done tonight. We beat one of the most successful teams in Goan and Indian history,” expressed Anju.
“I would like to thank and acknowledge the unending support to our club by late Peter Vaz, SCG President Natalina Vaz and Nathan Vaz for their constant and unending support to Panjim Footballers team which motivated the club to operate all these years,” expressed Anju, whose team has been plying their trade in the Goa Pro League in last five years.
Coming into the tournament, Panjim Footballers had been at a low point, struggling in the Goa Pro League having scored just one goal in their four games and sitting in 11th position with just a point after four games.
However, when the Goa Police Cup draw was first announced, it was understood that the Club owner Anju was optimistic about their chances of winning the tournament.
The only major obstacle was Churchill Brothers SC whom they would have faced in the semifinals, but thankfully Calangute Association knocked them out via penalty shootout.
“We had a tough opening in the Goa league but I was confident this time about the Police Cup. I even announced a bonus to my teams for winning the semis and also offered another bonus if they win tonight and they did. I am thankful to coach Ajay Acharya and his assistant Vikram Mane for achieving this feat, not forgetting the club president Anthony Vas and Welvin Menezes,” he concluded.
Panjim embarked on an incredible run, not just winning but also scoring most goals (13 goals) in the competition of which Irfan Yadwad himself scored eight goals and took home the leading goal-scorer of the tournament award. Joyson Gauncar was named the player of the match and also bagged the first scorer of the final.