10/10/2018 6:09:03 PM (GMT+3)

Passing the ball: How Goa’s football administration is hindering the state’s talent

Passing the ball: How Goa’s football administration is hindering the state’s talent

PANJIM, Goa: The intensity and roar with which the Arabian Sea lashes the Goa coast has dropped with the monsoon coming to an end. The same cannot be said of the football though—the beautiful game continues to sail on choppy waters.

The withdrawal of Dempo, Salgaocar and Sporting Club de Goa from I-League in July, 2016 was just one major disaster.

The foundation of the football castle of troubles, however, was laid when the state government declared football as the “state game” in March, 2012.

The government then formed the Goa Football Development Council (GFDC) with the intent to develop the sport.

GFDC, funded by the government, is headed by a well-known doctor and football enthusiast, Rufino Monteiro while Goa’s one of the two football Arjuna Awardees Brahmanand Shankwalkar, along with a few political appointees, is a GFDC committee member.

The GFDC has established 37 centres since its inception. Many youngsters neglected and deprived of facilities for long have now been given full playing kit and coaching.

But is the GFDC heading in the right direction?

For starters, everything is not well between the GFDC and Goa Football Association (GFA), the sport’s governing body in the state. Call it mistrust or clash of egos between GFA president Elvis Gomes and Monteiro, the game in the state is likely to be the loser.

The conflict of interest has resulted in a cold war between the two bodies.

Divide and rule

GFA has 185 clubs registered under its umbrella. Some of the clubs take part exclusively in age-group tournaments organised by GFA for the U-15, U-17 and U-19 categories. Only GFA-registered clubs can take part in the age-group events.

Goa follows a four-tier league system, with the top tier termed as Professional, followed by First Division, Second Division and Third Division.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar declared football as the ‘Official State Sport’ in 2012. He proposed INR 5 crore funds to support the game’s promotion and additional grants to be provided as per needs.

But with the state’s economy suffering due to a host of factors, including a ban on mining, the Rs 5 crore outlay has not seen any quantum jump over the years.

The GFDC, which runs one of the residential academies (Goa Football Development Council Elite academy) in South Goa, has not applied for GFA registration which would have allowed GFDC teams to take part in the age-group tournaments, which is currently not happening.

Gomes, a former state government official who took voluntary retirement from his position to contest on an Aam Aadmi Party ticket in 2016 assembly elections but lost from Cuncolim constituency, disclosed that GFDC has never applied for GFA registration.

Gomes, incidentally, functioned as member-secretary for the GFDC from 2012 to 2015.

At the last GFA annual general body meeting held in July, there was no mention of an affiliation either.

Incidentally in 2016, when it came to registration and granting recognition to GFDC academy, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) shot down the request with a directive to first register with the local body and then approach them.

An AIFF official who was handling the matter said: “How can a football academy, which is based in a particular state, bypass the state association, set protocols and knock on the doors of AIFF? It is not the done thing. We cannot bypass the set conditions for registration of academies.”

The GDFC committee members do not see any reason for registering with the GFA.

“The primary aim was to take part in the AIFF inter-academy tournaments and for that, affiliation with AIFF was important. That did not come about as AIFF asked for registration with GFA,” said a member of the committee who did not wish to be identified. “The procedure for registration (provisional or permanent) of new clubs is dealt during the GFA annual general body meeting and as the AIFF came back to us in October, we couldn’t do anything about it. The registration has taken a back seat.”

For now, none of the GFDC centres can participate in GFA age-group tournaments, but that has not moved the members into action.

“The boys are participating in inter-centre tournaments and turning out for inter-school tournaments. They re getting exposure,” anther member of the GFDC said, requesting anonymity.

Take, for instance, Cuncolim Union, one of the registered clubs, has not fielded any age-group teams in GFA tournaments since 2014. As most of the boys from the village are training under GFDC, Cuncolim Union is left with no sufficient pool of players to have their own training centre.

Incidentally, the club chairman is Gomes, but the club has no youth development teams.

“As all the prospective youngsters are training under GFDC and they have a contract with them, it’s not possible for the club to take away these youngsters from GFDC and field them. Getting an entirely new set of young talent and train them is difficult,” said Prakash Dessai, president of Cuncolim Union, while explaining the practical difficulties in having their own programme.

The Cuncolim Union men’s team comprising a few local players figured in the First Division League.

Sources in GFDC said they are awaiting the new GFA Executive Committee so that their application for affiliation will be considered favourably as they felt the current committee will create hurdles—with paperwork—for registration of the GFDC.

Two sides of a coin

Both Gomes and Monteiro worked together for three years from 2012 to 2015, but then fell out with each other and went different ways. One retained GFDC and the other became GFA head.

Gomes was critical about how money was spent on the GFDC project.

“It was Rs 5 crore when I was in. May be more now,” he said.

Asked whether the purpose of GFDC has been fulfilled, Gomes said: “I don’t know, as GFA has no representation in it. Justified or not (expenditure), it’s for the government, which is blowing up tax-payers’ money, to answer. So long as the appointees on the board are happy with what they get, they must be feeling that it shouldn’t matter to others.”

Most of the funds go in paying salaries for coaches and support staff and also towards infrastructure.

Around 150-odd coaches work with GFDC. North Goa has a lion’s share with 69 coaches for 22 centres. One centre, Valpoi, has seven coaches while some centres function with just one coach. In south Goa, 44 coaches work at 15 centres.

The unequal distribution of centres between the north and the south is another debatable subject.

Traditionally, south Goa has been the hotbed of football, but has only 15 centres. The nerve centre of football, like Chinchinim, which has produced a large number of international footballers (Maurico Afonso, Mario Soares, Mahesh Lotilkar), started a centre three years back, but shut it down.

“There’s a lot of paperwork involved in running the centre. As no one was willing to shoulder the responsibility, we had to shut it down,” said former Chinchinim centre-in-charge Michael Benny D’Costa, who held the voluntary post but was unable to cope up.