The state’s football is already reeling from years of neglect and mismanagement and losing its crown jewel would be its lowest ebb.
With just less than 90 days remaining to the start of I-League 2018-19 season, Goa’s Churchill Brothers entry is still uncertain. And if the Goan club is left out from the country’s present top tier, this will be the first time in the history of Indian Football that the football-rich state will have no representative in the top tier.
With Dempo SC, Sporting Clube de Goa and Salgaocar FC withdrawing from the league in the 2015-16, Churchill Brothers was the only team from the western state competing in the league for last two seasons but the club finished ninth, just above Indian Arrows who had immunity from the relegation, forcing their demotion.
If the Goan club does not get an entry in the league, it will be a huge loss to the state where Football is the official sport. Though the state government has announced it in 2012, football is rapidly losing its fame in the state. Goa Professional League which is the top tier of the state has been without sponsors in the last three seasons, while the league has also lost its charm as average attendance was less than 50 fans per match, last season, which actually runs for more than six months (the longest domestic league in the country).
The Indian National team used to field almost six-seven Goan players in the past but the present scene is a complete contrast – as the recently named probable list revealed by Stephen Constantine doesn’t have any Goan player.
“There are major ramifications here to start with; it’s not good for Goan football & Goan players. The demand for & of the players go down, as a result, the salary goes down which is the case at this moment. Non-participation in the I-league means players can’t catch the eye of the National selectors. Four-five month season, means, players aren’t given a 12-month contract. The overall effect is, good budding players have to abandon their dreams to pursue some other career and most importantly the clubs that have been there for so many years have started to shut down.” Former India International and FC Goa Development side head coach, Clifford Miranda said with much concern.
Already three Goan teams have withdrawn from the I-league which has already cut down the platform for the native players at the top level and now if Churchill Brothers does not get its entry in the league, the situation for the upcoming stars from the state will be very knotty as they will have to move out of the state in search of bigger platform to prove their calibre.
In the 2016-17 season when players like Adil Khan, Brandon Fernandes, Rowilson Rodrigues, Richard Costa, Seriton Fernandes, Anthony D’Souza, Keenan Almeida and many more who were making a comeback in their second stint, Churchill Brothers was the team who gave them the platform to prove their caliber. The same players were either picked by ISL clubs or bigger teams from the I-League in the next season after their superb performance with the Goan club but the current scenario will cut down the platform for the upcoming talents from the state.
SESA Football Academy is one of the well-known academies in the state but the players who are well furnished in the academy to become professional players will have no employment in the near future if the present scenario does not gets changed. The head coach of the academy, Ajay Acharya said “When I joined the academy, there were plenty of teams from Goa in the I-League. So, it was very easy for our graduates to find the teams but the situation is completely different now. If Goa does not represent at the higher level then it will make our path little difficult but now our target is to get our player into the ISL’s development sides or into other outstation I-League teams.”
“Even a newly formed Dempo Football Academy which was accredited with three stars by the All India Football Federation is doing a great job at the grassroots level but looking at the state’s present condition, the near future of these players is very dark. Another former India International and present Dempo SC head coach Samir Naik is also sadden with the current situation of the Goan Football as he said “When we (Dempo) and other three teams use to play in the I-League there use to be more employed players from the state but now many football players are unemployed due to no Goan team in the top tier of the country. That also made it difficult for the players to get the attention of the national team selectors.”
“Frankly speaking, Goan football is in the worst stage. Goan players still have that caliber to compete at any level but present situation has cut down their options. You won’t get the experience of a higher difficulty level just by playing Goa Pro League. There are many talented players in the GPL but they need a higher level of football to groom their talent. The day when Goa will have more than three teams in the top tier, I can assure you that there will be more Goans in the national team.”
With so much of talent in the state, Goa deserves more teams at the top tier but the AIFF has overlooked the contribution of the Goan football clubs who have been contributing to Indian Football since the past 50 years.