Tuesday , 25 September 2018
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Football has given boys an opportunity to be men

AUGUSTO RODRIGUES

There was a time when I found it difficult to understand how no football player from Goa could be part of the Indian probable for the India squad for the FIFA U-17 World Cup. When the boys were first assembled five years back I was confident then that at some point some boys from Goa would find his place.

As years past hope never faded and even when Nicolai Adam was changed and Luis Matos was given charge hope flickered.

As it began to look unlikely, I began to find reason why or attribute reasons to why no boy from Goa was good enough to be in the group that had a chance of being selected.

Being selected is one thing and being in the group with a chance of being selected is another. Not being in both was appalling. I say appalling because we claim football is everything in as far as sports is concerned in Goa.

I think I have to stand corrected now and start believing that football can be much bigger in other States of the country and it is just that I have not been alert. In short, we may be fooling ourselves in believing that Fish ,Feni and Football roll on us.

Fish and Feni , OK. Football not really because before the start of the World Cup the realisation is dawning on me that football lies in the poor , the lesser privileged ; in children who struggle for a meal.

Football is called many things and one of the most common is- it is a beautiful game.

Beauty is subjective, relative or even catastrophic. In short:  If there is finity to infinity, there is beauty in a beast.

Football has brought happiness to many in the ninety minutes that we are given to exhibit with the ball. “The beauty of the World Cup is in what happens in the ninety minutes on the pitch and not what we try to create off the field. Opening ceremonies cannot be considered to be frills to a World Cup match,” a senior FIFA official told me recently in conversation.

I understood later and understand better today that beauty is the happiness that football enjoys all of us to enjoy. Football trickles to most unexpected corner, touches the most unexpected heart and gives what all of us want but few can find- happiness.

I am beginning to look at football in this perspective and with gloom instead of doom after having realised the hearts of people football has touched in India – the hearts of the boys; their families; their friends; and their full communities after the news of their selection for India trickled through.

To me, the joy of the ninety minutes has started before the start of time and that joy is being brought about by these boys who will be representing India at the World Cup.

That India will not do well was known from the beginning. I do not think there can be much improvement in the standard of play. After all we started as minnows and will end up as so. But, who said, being small makes it difficult to be happy.

Coach Matos has tried his best and the boys will be trying their hardest to give their best. That is the spirit of the humble and that is the spirit of India.

Millions must have been spent on training these boys and perhaps many more millions will be sent and India will still need time to make its presence felt on the football stage. At the end of the day what will count is that football has helped change the lives of these boys, their families and their communities. This is football and for me, this is the beauty of the game.

Back to Goa and no boy being selected- no worry! As I was recently told, all of us are responsible and all of us have to be humble enough to come back together and learn to share the ball again. There is scope if we are ready to introspect and accept.

I am beginning to believe that we have been undone by football because we tried to kick the ball when it should have been caressed. We forgot to play the ball and instead chose to play personal games and in the bargain the spoils of the ball trickled away and we remained with infrastructure.

Before the start of the World Cup it is safe to say that football has given the boys an opportunity to be men. To me, this is the beauty of football!

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