Goa’s love for football can be gauged by the number of fans who travel around the world to be part of football’s biggest party – The FIFA World Cup. Sports Editor AUGUSTO RODRIGUES tries to get the essence of being for a World Cup in conversation with Shrinivas Dempo, owner of Dempo Sports Club
Q: How many World Cups have you been to?
I started attending the World Cup since 1998 in France. I have not missed a single World Cup after that and the one in Russia is going to be my sixth.
Q: What stages of the World Cup do you attend?
I normally go for all semis and finals. I went a bit early for the first World Cup.
Q: Which is the best World Cup you have attended and why?
From the organisation point of view the world cups in Germany and Japan were the best. There was a lot of discipline that was evident in the manner in which they put their efforts in organising the tournament. There were sign boards everywhere; there was literally no scope for confusion. There was clarity in organisation, something I did not see in other countries.
Q: From the football point of view, which World Cup did you enjoy the most?
Brazil was the best because I have always been fascinated by the way football and Brazilians co-exist. Football in Brazil and Brazil without football is just not possible. The people have football in their blood. I see passion for football in Brazilians. Brazil is a developing country and I think football is a sport that helps that country develop. Everyone breathed football during the World Cup in Brazil. It was an atmosphere of fun, fun and more fun.
Q: Which was your best moment from the World Cups you attended?
I think the best moments were the ones when I could watch Messi from close quarters in the World Cup in Brazil. We were sitting near the ground and I could see Messi from a close distance. I remember watching Messi go out for the interval. I am a Messi fan and being able to see him from so close was special for me. For me football is everything.
Q: Does your craze for football emanate because you are a Goan or from your family?
The feeling in Goa for football is quiet inexplicable. I know things have changed a lot through the years but the craze for football has not disappeared. I also grew up in a family which had a deep bond with football. Football has always been a part of Dempo’s.
Q: Do you remember the first powerful whiff of football you got in your family?
I was six years old and that was the time we had won the Rovers Cup for the first time. I remember the excitement and clamour in Goa to receive the team at the airport. The celebrations at Four Pillar in Santa Cruz still linger in my mind. The full village of Santa Cruz had gathered and they had even brought elephants to welcome the team with garlands. I do not see the same enthusiasm today.
I think it is because there are a lot of other things that attract people these days. Apart from other sports there are other avenues of entertainment and the generation of today is responding to these forms of entertainment.
Q: Do you see India hosting the World Cup in your life time?
This is my wish. We have a long way to go but my wish is optimistic. It is this optimism that has convinced me to continue investing in football. I know we will get results if we pursue with honesty.