By Sudhakar Shanbhag | NT
PANAJI: “I love my village Curtorim as I was born there. My friends, my well wishers, my family always backed me and I am what I am only because of their overwhelming support and not to forget the total backing and encouragement and free hand provided to me by our beloved chairman Mr Shrinivas V Dempo,
who has gone all the way to ensure that Dempo Sports Club tasted the kind of success that it has in Indian football,” stated Dempo SC head coach cum secretary, Armando Colaco, while rejoicing the tremendous success his team has achieved with an unprecedented fourth national league title, which they clinched earlier this week.
But Armando has been a great catalyst as far as facilitating Dempo’s awe-inspiring success in India football. Four national league titles, Federation Cup, Durand Cup, an historical semi-final berth in the 2008 AFC Cup and a host of other titles have adorned the trophy trove of Dempos, all under the tutelage of Armando Colaco.
When showered with praises for having achieved grand success at the helm of affairs with Dempo, Armando is quick to shift stance and credit players and support staff – Mauricio, Custodio, Venkatesh, Raju, Mathew and others – for all that the club has achieved during the past six or seven seasons.
“I owe it to the boys,” maintains Armando who is revered as a father figure in the Dempo clan and at the same time is feared for being a strict disciplinarian. “When I talk they (players) listen. But I also listen to them. We are like a family and they are my boys and that’s the kind of camaraderie that has made it possible for Dempo to achieve the kind of success they are enjoying at the moment,” Armando elucidated after the team’s extraordinary success in club football.
But somewhere down memory lane, it was the sober upbringing coupled with the family-friends’ support that nurtured young Armando and transformed him into a successful footballer and then into a coach and an astute administrator, that he is right now with Dempo SC.
Born to parents – Vincent Salvador Colaco (Saluzinho) and Clarina Dias Colaco, who lived in Panjim (18th June Road) - on June 22, 1953, Armando was always adored and loved by his brothers and sisters. Having lost his father at a very young age, Armando came up the hard way as he weathered the storms of life with a brave face but never gave up on his ambitions of playing football, which he did right from a young age during his schooling at Don Boscos where Fr Joseph Casti and Fr Thomas, in particular, encouraged the footballer in the youthful Armando.
According to Armando, it was Sir Edwin, Domnic, Wilson Paes, along with Fr Simon, Fr Edward and Fr Benedict who played an important role in his life as far as his early upbringing was concerned. Later in his life, his wife Juliana and daughter Genevieve have been his motivation and support.
Armando’s serious foray into competitive football came during the U-17 Subroto Cup where he represented Don Bosco and then played for Don Bosco Oratory (DBO) at the Second Division League. That was after he had appeared for Panjim Gymkhana, his first appearance in club football at the U-14 level where Fr Edward had played a vital role in providing the necessary impetus to Armando’s soccer aspirations at DBO. Armando recalls that it was Pradip Khaute who had helped him gain his maiden entry into Panjim Gym in the late 60s while Isidor partnered him as a striker and Baptist Gomes, Pandu, Balachandra Naik marshalled the midfield.
After gaining the necessary exposure with Don Bosco and Panjim Gymkhana, Armando, who was at the end of his teens, took a career-shaping step in the 1970-71 season when he was chosen to play for Dempo for the first time, under coach Joseph Ratnam, who taught his wards how to play football with discipline. “That was a very important phase of my career as far as shaping the destiny of my football talent was concerned as I got picked for a big club – Dempo,” Armando reminisced. Though he made Dempo his abode for the next 14 years to come, as a player, the hardworking Armando plied his trade with dedication and commitment before he hung his boots in 1985. But by then, Armando had gathered a wealth of football knowledge during his 14-year stay at Dempos. Under coach Ratnam, Armando had understood the nuances of playing “collective football” as everyone was treated as a family member at Dempos - a virtue Armando still implements to this day and age as a coach. He says, “I learnt the philosophy of ‘keep the ball’ at Dempo team and my seniors helped me gain all the experience,” Armando reiterated. In 1978, Bob taught Dempo the 4-3-3 formation, which had the attributes of being aggressive but had left Dempo players to feed on a new style of approaching football during that era.
A recipient of the State Kerkar award, Armando, had to look beyond his retirement as a player and it were two men – Alberto Colaco, the present AIFF secretary, and Agnelo Mascarenhas, who encouraged the just-retired Dempo player to move into football coaching. And thus began a new journey for Armando the coach. From 1985-88, the Curtorim-based trainer, essayed himself into coaching Salcete Football Club and soon guided the club to a win in Stafford Cup. Soon, Armando had a one-year offer from Sesa Goa, which he accepted with delight and during the 1988-89 season, the team won the Vitthal Trophy under his guidance. That actually set the tone for his coaching stints elsewhere as Armando, who was fast gathering moss, rolled on like a stone, and successfully coached the state U-21 Santosh team partnering Peter Vales and also Goa U-23 team at the B C Roy trophy in the early 90s. That was after an year-long stint with Dempos (1989-90) where he won the Pomes Cup and Scissors Cup. His success was noted as Churchill Bros offered him the role of a coach first and then the Technical Director when Danny Maclaren was roped in as a coach during the 1994-2000 period. Switching his base from Dempo to Churchill in the 90s, Armando had announced his arrival as a seasoned coach with three Goa League titles and an NFL runner-up trophy with Churchill Bros and also a foray into AFC Cup.
But in 2000, came a Clarion call from Mr Shrinivas V Dempo, offering Armando to coach his team, which had hit a trough in the national football league following a demotion. Having agreed to accept the challenge, Armando greeted the opportunity to redefine the destiny of a football club, which under his patronage has risen from the dust to virtually touch the skys. As they say rest his history, what Armando and Dempo have achieved together in the 2000-10 Golden era for the club, cannot be contained in one line. You name the title, both at domestic and national level, Dempos have managed to inscribe their name on it. Four national league titles, Durand Cup, Federation Cup and the list goes on… and apart from that Dempos have also been the first Indian club to reach the semi-finals of the AFC Cup, in 2008. And, having now qualified for next year’s AFC Cup and an opportunity to also make the AFC Champions League come 2011, Armando has set his sights to gain entry into the toughest league for Asian Club – the AFC Champions League. The AFC A Licence trainer and an AFC Fifa instructor, is not satisfied with what he has achieved as he wants to re-set the benchmark for Dempos. May be an AFC Champions League qualification beckons Dempo next year. Let’s wait and watch.