Football was discussed in the Goa legislative Assembly after quite a while and it was nice to know that a few Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA’s) participated on the discussion for government grants to professional clubs.
Running a professional football club has always been an expensive exercise – one realized by few.
However, what had one thinking ,after the debate, was the perception shared by many MLA’s that clubs from Goa withdrew from the I-League because of lack of funds or it being too expensive.
For the record: Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa were the first two teams to opt out of the I- League together because there was a lot of uncertainty about the future of the I-league. Actually, there was no clarity at all and at that stage it appeared that the newly started tournament called Indian Super League (ISL) was set to take over football in India.
Dempo Sports Club joined the other two teams, a little later, but, it was clear from the beginning that the three teams would not be part of the I-League until the ambiguity of its existence was cleared. It was a case of solidarity by the three teams from Goa in the I-league.
Money was not the matter but spending money during a period of uncertainty was and always is.
I reproduce pertinent parts of a letter sent by Dempo Sports Club owner Shrinivas Dempo to AIFF.
“Considering the high cost of fielding and maintaining a team in the I-League and the uncertainty regarding the reorganization of the competition, the Promoters of the Dempo Group of Companies and the Management of the Club have decided that it will not be worthwhile to make the considerable additional investment required to field a team in the I-League. Therefore, with great regret, we wish to inform you that we will not field a team in the forthcoming I-League (2016-17).
However, mindful of our responsibilities towards football, not to say of our love for the game, we shall redouble our efforts and investments in the grassroots and youth development programmes to prepare the soccer stars of the future. We are glad to inform you that we are also launching a football academy from the next scholastic year onwards.
This decision does not, of course, preclude our option to re-enter the I-League or any new competition introduced by the AIFF / I-League in coming times.”
It is clear that the teams from Goa did not quit the National League because of a dearth of money. So, there is a misconception in the minds of many of our elected leaders that teams from Goa backed out due to financial reasons.
Financial reasons can be construed in two ways: One, that the teams had no money or did not have enough money to spend on clubs or two; that the clubs did not want to spend money when the future was uncertain.
The truth is, clubs have the money but the future of football is still uncertain. Many would want to link this uncertainty to the uncertainty to the future of mining in Goa. Personally, that amounts taking football out of focus.
The three clubs spent a lot of money after quitting the I-league and a sizeable amount is going to be spent now. There is a difference between lot and sizeable but that difference comes into the limelight because the window for football has narrowed for all to be able to see through.
When the three teams opted out, Churchill Brothers FC jumped on the invitation to join the I-League. By doing so ,they did not allow AIFF to feel isolated but in many ways isolated themselves from Goa and players from Goa.
Churchill Brothers survived the first year in the I-League due to the work of Derrick Pereira. Had he not been in, the team could well have been out. At least they appeared to be on their way out before he joined them.
Derrick joining helped not just the team but the players in the team because most joined FC Goa through Derrick and so football in Goa got the brush feel it needed.
Churchill Brothers are relegated from the I-League and this time there is another uncertainty plaguing football in Goa – whether the team will get a back door entry to the I-League or not.
Bosses in the AIFF do not believe so while Churchill Alemao thinks he will and that explains why he has three foreign players already in his roster and he has signed some players from Dempo SC and looking to sign in some more. However, one cannot forget that the team survived on government dole during the last season. It could well be the first team to do so.
So, that leaves Goa in a situation where three clubs are investing on youth development and have no face where their players need to be seen, to be believed; one team is neither here nor there and another team waiting to be the face of football in Goa- FC Goa.
FC Goa has been spending a lot after the transition of owners and is actually the home of football in Goa. Most players in Goa look to join FC Goa first and then look out of the State. Football is still prevalent in Kolkata but there is nothing like partying at home.
Yet, the party gets monotonous when it is in one place. When monotony sets in talent gets stifled. When there is no competition around, lethargy is bound to creep in that can cripple talent.
Monopoly gives birth to sycophancy and with that the best can be swept under ground. It happens in all walks of life and there are no reasons to suggest it will not happen in football. A player feels able to express better when the options to play are bigger and can get better. Many stables are better than one.
Reports emanating from New Delhi suggest that a solution to the problem of amalgamating the ISL and I-League is in sight. It may take another season or two. This could well turn out to be a game of patience, worth our wait.
Professional clubs in Goa have spent millions on football in Goa with no return. They are not looking at a window that shows return but one that has fair play on rigid pedestal. One spends to earn or spends what one earns. Clubs were doing the latter for a long while and a reversal was long overdue.
Football in Goa survives because professional clubs were started by people with big hearts for football.