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AIFF's selection policy to blame for lack of Goans in National Team- GFA President Elvis Gomes

Written by: Ravish R Narvekar

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Goan football's head honcho spoke exclusively to Khel Now on his relationship with the AIFF, the absence of Goan players from the national team and much more...

Elvis Gomes is a well-known face in Goa. As a former officer of the Goa Civil Service for nearly two decades, he held various positions of influence in the state administration and police department over the years. Along the way, he developed a reputation as an upright and honest bureaucrat who knew how to get things done. Gomes then quit the bureaucracy to enter politics and contested the recent Assembly elections in the state as an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate.
 
He is now back in administration as the President of the Goa Football Association (GFA) and is seeking to use his wealth of experience to restore Goan football to its pride of place in the Indian game. Gomes spoke exclusively to Khel Now's Ravish Narvekar on a range of issues in and around the beautiful game in the western state.
 
The GFA is the only football association in the country that organises more than 1000 matches every season despite facing many difficulties mainly in arranging grounds. They also have to face financial problems as hosting these many matches without a main sponsor is a big task, but President Elvis Gomes is proud of overseeing this process every season.
 
 
Arranging 1000 games every season is a tough job and a deep insight can work wonders for the football-oriented state
 
“Our roadmap consists of two parts, one is the organisation of leagues and the other is the development part. We have nine leagues starting from the Goa Professional League, First Division, Second Division and Third Division. Then age group leagues, where we organise U-20, U-18, U-16 and U-14 and women's league,” Gomes explained.
 
He further added, “Organising all these matches is a really big task because infrastructure wise to conduct so many matches we don’t have good grounds. The main problem is that the grounds have been taken over by the government in the name of development but 'the development' has remained there only. The surfaces have not been upgraded and somehow we have to make use of the same grounds. Now, the government has started charging us for these grounds also. When we are conducting leagues that help state players to develop, the government should be more considerate as the state is also a stake holder in the state's football. Unfortunately, the last government and this one are really not encouraging us in our efforts. Yet, we have always succeeded in completing all the leagues and we are proud of the same.”
 
 
The association is also doing good work in terms of grassroots development as the state has its own team in every age group and to help develop these players the GFA has appointed many qualified coaches who take care of the respective teams. Unlike other state associations who select their state teams just two weeks before a major tournament, Goan teams practice together throughout the year despite the financial difficulties.
 
 
Elvis Gomes has been working in the social hemisphere for a long time now  
“Financial constraints are a major problem when it comes to development, but despite that we can manage with what we have. We have been able to form our state teams and are represented in every age group. The same teams are managed by good, qualified coaches where once in a week they come together and practice. Eventually what we want is to build a strong state team," he asserted.
 
There was a time when more than half of the senior national team was made up of Goan players but in recent times state players has found it difficult to find a place in the national team. The same has happened with the Indian U-17 national team which is currently preparing for the FIFA U-17 World Cup which will be played in India in October. Gomes believes that the All India Football Federation (AIFF)'s selection process is to blame for the lack of Goans in the national team. 
 
“Today, if people are saying that there are no Goan players in the U-17 national team, my question is are Goan players absemnt only at the age group level? What has happened at the senior level? At senior level we used to have more than 30% representation from Goa. But, now there are problems with the selection, proper processes are not being followed by the federation and as a result we don’t have a Goan player in the U-17 team,” he bemoaned.
 
When asked about the GFA’s relationship with the AIFF Gomes said, “Each one has got their own responsibility. As a state association we have ours, they have their own. The problem with them is that they have been experimenting so much with so many things and then they have pressures of their sponsors, who have paid them lots of money. So they have to dance to their tune. So what happens is that they also want us to dance to their tune but sometimes to maintain our own sovereignty it is not possible to do so. After so many years Goa doesn't have representative on the executive committee because they don’t want the people who are mnot aftaid to express their opinion,” Gomes claimed
 
 
Despite not being on good terms with Indian football's governing body, the GFA has shown the support to the federation by postponing the Goa Professional League (GPL) to November. The GPL is the elite division league of the state and usually starts in the month of August and runs until December or mid-January. However, this year the AIFF is keen to ensure that no local or regional tournaments run parallel to the FIFA U-17 World Cup.
  
“With Goa being one of the venues for the U-17 World Cup, this year we are trying to readjust our calendar. So we may start the GPL in the middle of September or we might wait for the World Cup to end. Since its once in a lifetime event and since India is hosting a FIFA  tournament for the first time, we want to support it. So, from that point of view we want all  the focus to be on the World Cup.” 
 
The Goan football season is set to expand to last at least eight to nine months but it will be a big worry for low budget clubs to compete with the big clubs like Dempo SC, Salgaocar FC and Sporting Clube de Goa due to financial limiations. However, the GFA President believes that it is the clubs' responsibility to operate in a sustainable manner.
 
 
The 54-year-old was AAM Aadmi Party's Cheif Ministerial Candidate for Goa during the 2017 elections
 
"We have told clubs that professional football means the club has to sign players for a season and not for five or six months. See, once a club is promoted to a professional league then that club has to be run professionally. The GFA is a regulatory body. We organize the leagues and tournaments. The clubs must be self-sufficient when it comes to generating resources for running costs. They must bring in means to generate revenue by themselves," Gomes stated.
 
The GPL has been without any sponsors for the last two seasons. Last season the GFA had announced the coming on board of new sponsors in a press conference, but something went wrong between the two parties and the deal was cancelled at the last moment but this year the association is hopeful of finding sponsors as they are planning to hire a private marketing agency to help in the search and assist with effective marketing of the league.
 
"Last year something went wrong just as we were about to put pen to paper and we lost out on the sponsors, but this year we are hopeful. We are already talking to many people. We are also planning to appoint a private agency to market the league and it will be executed as soon as possible. We will try to broadcast the GPL but it is subject to sponsors," the former burueacrat said.
 
The GFA has recently banned a group of 45 players for playing in the unregistered tournaments. However the ban was lifted after they tendered an apology and a fine of 5000 from each player. However, some of the players are not ready to pay the fine as they think the fiasco was a strategy by the GFA to generate revenue. But, Gomes unequivocally completely denied the allegations.
 
"They (players) must understand that there are some rules. If there are no rules then why is an association required? It's the association's duty to see that rules are enforced to the best of its ability. This happens when registered players play in unregistered tournaments but when big names come in, it becomes news. At that time, as the regulatory body we cannot sit back and watch it happen. So, we have taken action as per the rules."
 
Gomes also feel that change is needed within the GFA itself as he belives that some members need to change their mentality and should think about the progress of state football before their own club.
 
"First and foremost, in the GFA there has to be a line of thought that we are here for the football in the state and not for any individual club. One thing that has not changed is that some members represent their local interests only. They do not see anything beyond that. So, one thing that has to change is this culture between the members of the association." He concluded.

Published: Thu Jul 13, 2017 06:30 PM IST

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