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Goa has qualified for the Santosh Trophy from the West Zone and it happened on expected lines. Qualification is no big deal. It would have been a shame had the team not qualified. The essence now is to win the Santosh Trophy.

It has been a while since the Santosh Trophy was last won by Goa. We almost did it last year. Winning the Santosh Trophy does not have the same charm it had years ago because the tournament has lost its lustre through the years.

There was a time when there was a fierce contest just to host the tournament. The Trophy was the biggest event in the football calendar year because it was a contest where the best participated. Playing for a State in the Santosh was akin to playing for Ranji Trophy.

Santosh Trophy has been robbed of its glamour because the All India Football Federation (AIFF) changed priorities through times.

Today, the Santosh Trophy is held when the I-League is on and therefore the best players are not available to represent their States. Playing for club is more important than playing for State.

There was a time when players from Kolkata at least used to travel by plane. The story is different these days. The plight of the Goan players is similar.

Since three teams from Goa backed out of the I–League a lot of Goan players were expected to be part of this Santosh Trophy contingent. Some did make it while others did not because a few of the players joined some clubs out of the State.

The problem is not just plaguing Goa but other states too because the best players are picked up by clubs and all States end up with few or no quality players to represent them.

There was a time in Goa – and one presumes in other states — where there was intense lobbying to get a player selected to the Santosh Trophy team. Players were selected on merit – most times– and only the best found themselves in the team. To play for Santosh was a pride in those years. Not anymore now.

A lot of under-20 players are finding their way into the teams and this helps to an extent — it gives those with talent an opportunity to catch the eyes of scouts. The Goa team has two players with plenty of talent and one of them is eighteen year old Liston Colaco from Salgaocar FC.

Liston finished his West zone campaign scoring five goals for Goa out of the eight scored by the team. He provided assists in three and his talent with the ball has already been proved. Liston did not need the qualification campaign to shine because he earned a name for himself being the highest goal scorer in the Goa Football Association’s (GFA) Professional League.

One of my draws to this year’s Professional League was Liston. He is a very interesting player to watch.  He is young but it does not reflect in his game. There were times when I was watching him and his style reminded me of two players of yesteryears — Bruno Coutinho and Mauricio Afonso. Liston has a bit of both and if harnessed well is on his way to being a great find.

Bruno started coming into the limelight with Roy Barreto. Bruno schemed for Roy to finish. Such was their partnership. After Roy left for America, Bruno took over the mantle of scorer and accomplished some great scoring feats that no Goan player has reached so far. Liston is capable of surpassing Bruno.

Mauricio was one midfielder who was one of the best set piece executioners of India. His corners were difficult to read and his dead ball strikes left goalkeepers and defenders puzzled. Liston is slowly filling in those boots at Salgaocar FC.

Bruno and Mauricio shone later in life – not before their twenties. Liston’s age is his advantage. The boy has a lot more to give and will give because he appears to be disciplined. He is hard working and hard work pays in any field of life.


POST SCRIPT: Recently someone who claims to be a former Ranji player (and there are many like him) in a selective press conference claimed he had unearthed another scam of Rs one crore in the GCA and that he was getting details of another Rs ten crores. The so called Ranji player must have thought that people have short memories and had forgotten that he had made another claim some weeks before and the same was exposed with facts and proof by the first vice president of GCA Venkatesh Prabhudesai.

To tell lies is easy. To account for lies is difficult especially if the lies are being told on behalf of people who quiver to come out in the open lest they themselves get exposed.

The problem is become clear. People in cricket circles have faith in the people in charge because the people who are pointing fingers at them are people with no standing, anywhere. So, how can they be believed? Especially, when none of the accusations have any merit. This reminds me of an old saying by Piers Anthony: “When one person makes an accusation, check to be sure he himself is not the guilty one. Sometimes it is those whose case is weak who make the most clamour.”

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