Sport has the power to unite. And keeping this in mind, a group of football crazy people in Amona have united the village through a professionally planned-and-executed Amona Super League that kick-starts tomorrow. Six village football teams and an entire village are set to be part of this festival now in its third year
Danuska Da Gama I NT BUZZ
Amona, a quaint village in North Goa’s Bicholim taluka, accessed by the Amona-Khandola Bridge, is rich in culture and tradition. Every year not less than 45 theatre plays are staged in this village, alongside celebrations of several traditional festivals like Gade, Kalo, Jatrotsav, Vhodle Dev, Dakhte Dev, etc. The village has a lot of young people making their mark in various fields.
Not many know that Amona is perhaps the first village to give local football a boost differently. Inspired by a format that has a mix of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Indian Super League (ISL), the Amona Super League (ASL) provides a platform for the local youth to showcase their football talent. Also, to make it a local festival that brings the residents together.
Six teams, each owned by the locals, play in this league. Each owner purchases his players through an open auction and a marquee player is chosen to lead the team.
The third edition, running for two months, will kick-start tomorrow at 4 p.m. at Amona High School Ground. Football action will be witnessed in all its glory every Saturday and Sunday till the final match is played on October 7.
Every year the league has a new tag line. While the first year had ‘One team, one dream’, the second edition’s tagline was, ‘Stronger together’ and this year it is, ‘Rise as One’. These might just seem as taglines to create some buzz, but for those who are part of it, the phrase unites the village – people from seven wards in Amona put aside all their differences and unite through football, Goa’s state sport.
The crew of about 17 members is a mix of students, people in service and business persons. But the common binding factor here is football. They take time out in the evenings to sit and plan every detail that goes into the making of this tournament, organised in association with Sai Baba Sports Club.
Just like the professional Indian leagues, here too there are auctions for players. Giving us more details about what the auction for the 7-a-side football league is like vice president of ASL committee, Nitin Fadte says: “Of course it’s nowhere compared to what happens during ISL and IPL, but is well thought of and planned. It happens in the evenings where each owner has a kitty of 1000 points that he can spend to buy players.” An interesting aspect here is that the owners can use ‘Right to Match’ option given to them by the organisers, wherein they can pay the same amount and retain a player who played for them earlier and was bid for by another owner.
Players are divided in two groups. ‘A’ category includes senior experienced players who have done well in previous leagues, and ‘B’ includes players who’ve just begun their football career and have great potential. A minimum of 20 points can be spent on a player from the first category and 10 points on a player from the second category.
The league has footballers like Aman Bhor (currently coaching with Salgaocar) and Rahul Chowdhary who has represented Goa at the U-14 Nationals and was part of the U-19 national camp; Shivraj Bhagat who has played for Goa at the U-19 Nationals.
Every year, the response from local youth has seen a surge and this year, 75 players from across 7 wards in the village came forward to register themselves to be part of this first-of-its kind tournament in the state a month in advance. While there is no age group per se, a similar league – Junior Amona Super League for boys studying up to standard nine.
“The boys are always enthusiastic about this league and look forward to it. For the owners too it is a great feeling to own a village team that has a mix of boys from across wards playing with competitive spirit. Everyone takes great pride during these two months in Amona, from families of players, to owners and organisers,” says Nitin.
While each owner spends about Rs15,000 to be part of this tournament each year, he (along with some co-owners) doesn’t compromise on kits, jerseys, football and coaching for their teams. People who have played football in the past and have been following the sport in the village are approached to take up ownership of teams. An owner spends anything between Rs60,000 to Rs1 lakh on his team.
While the finals have been attracting people from across the state, with little or just mere word of mouth publicity, the tournament has attracted football lovers from nearby villages. “The quality of the tournament has increased every year,” says member, Sunil Gawas, who tells us that what came about as an idea is a dream for their village, which only keeps getting better each year.
Working with a small budget of Rs3.5 lakhs, Amona Super League has a touch of glamour to it, from flags being made for each team displayed on the field before the kick-off to fire-works and entertainment.
This year the trophy to be taken by the winning team is a replica of the Barclay’s English Premier League, 80 centimetres in height. The previous two editions were won by Houston Bulls. Also, after every match there are prizes given with a sports presentation ceremony to the best defender, man of the match, etc, that could be cash, or a jersey. “For the players, it’s not about the money or incentives that he gets, but about the sport he is so passionate about, team spirit and the urge to get noticed in his own village,” says Hemant Parab, a crew member.
While earlier, before the league started, a knock-out tournament was organised, it would only give the senior players a chance and that too would be only for a day. But now this tournament has allowed local boys to consider football as a possible career option.
Also, the Amona Super League has been successful in creating and nurturing footballers who excel in the state. Many such players are sought after to play for 2nd and 3rd division tournaments in the state. It has also put an end to rivalry. “Earlier whenever there were tournaments in the state, there would be two teams participating from Amona and it reflected badly on our village. But now, one united team participates; and Amona off late has been doing really well,” says Sunil.