Goan football’s future is FC Goa’s present

Football Manager enthusiasts always take pride in one aspect of the game than the rest. The prospect of scouting a mercurial talent and developing the player in question can be quite rewarding; the feeling of helping mould a career a pleasing one.

The game, as in real life, allows clubs to buy superstars, yet the challenge of developing one’s players remains a special one and indeed, the holy grail of all club football. We too at FC Goa, dream of the day a gushing, giddy Anant Tyagi exclaims, “11 Goan boys, all from the same state. What a story!”

Turning this dream into reality is no easy task, mind. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, in running five youth sides. That’s right, five – the Under-14’s, U-16’s, U-18’s, U-20’s and the Developmental side.

Derrick Pereira, Technical Director and Head of Youth Development, and his crew, feverishly look at 1000’s of matches happening in the state, ranging from inter-class matches at primary schools to GPL games, in the hope of uncovering the next Bruno Coutinho, the next Brahmanand Sankhwalkar, the next Clifford Miranda.

When a FC Goa side boasting three foreigners won 3-0 on opening night, the side’s Goan contingent gave a great account of themselves. Brandon Fernandes, newly-capped for India and one of the most prolific Indian attackers in the league, bossed proceedings from start to finish in midfield.

Seriton Fernandes put in 10 tackles in all, wearing his ‘Thou Shalt Not Pass’ game-face at the Fatorda. Mandar Rao Dessai and Lenny Rodrigues, relatively senior statesmen, led by example, as they have done for many a spring.

Indian football lovers were in for a treat come the end of the game and would be witnessing something special, a sight that had become common in last year’s Super Cup and Goa Pro League season. FC Goa ended the game with 7 Goans on the pitch, a feat that no other team can have claimed to match this season.

Each of the three coming on received substantial cheer, as the Fatorda faithful stood up for the home-town lads. They were familiar with the trio, all playing significant parts in the Dev Team’s thrilling GPL title run at the Duler last season.

Saviour Gama had played the last league game of season 5 against Chennaiyin FC as Sergio Lobera chose to give his first-team regulars a breather. But it was at Andheri that he really announced himself, coming on after captain Mandar had picked up an injury right before half-time. Against an opponent filled with Indian internationals in attack, the left-back held his own and played his heart out in the ISL final. These boys from Chicalim rarely do go easy on their opponents and Gama is no different.

Liston Colaco, a winger blessed with both pace and natural technique, has been making waves in the state for a few years. The Durand Cup offered other teams insights into what the ex-Salgaocar man could produce and he took to the pitch on the 23rd, hoping to do more of the same on a bigger stage.

Then there’s Princeton Rebello, a player blessed by the gift of Kronos. Unwavering in the middle of the park with magic in his boots, the 20-year-old ran the show for Miranda’s Dev Team last year and possesses the ability to grab matches by the scruff of the neck.

The youngsters served notice to their elders; the first-team regulars have a fight on their hands. Neither can the newly-promoted lads. Leander D’Cunha, Brian Faria, Hayden Fernandes, Nestor Dias, Sarineo Fernandes, Papuia and many more lie in wait to stake their claim.

The Police Cup triumph at the start of this season was further proof that an army of Goans is ready to seize their chances. Hundred-plus Goans at the same time in the same club, playing the same fluid system of football. The path to the dream has well and truly been laid.