Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Goan Football – A World Away from Delhi

I love Goa, It’s a wonderful place which always serves as a peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of Delhi life.  Thankfully, I have multiple clients in Goa which allows me to get down to this coastal state every other month on average.  Goa is different from the rest of India. Not only is it peaceful, almost sleepy, shaped by the Portuguese and predominantly Catholic, it is also a place where football is interwoven into the fabric of society, not cricket. For a football lover and someone works within the Indian football industry, this last characteristic of Goa makes it the perfect place to travel to, well, that and the amazing and cheap fish and prawn curry which is served at the local beach shacks. 

I was in Goa last week for some meetings and experienced again why Goa is considered one of the so-called homes of football in India. There is just so much football going on everywhere you turn. I arrived on Monday and caught the first half of the Salgaocar FC vs. Churchill Brothers match at Tilak Maidan in Vasco with a few thousand people in the audience, mostly drunken men praying that Churchill Brothers won the match and didn’t get relegated from the I-League 1st division.Then my colleagues and I drove down to Margao to watch Bengaluru FC beat Sporting Club de Goa 2-1 to finish off their championship season in style in front of hundreds of singing fans who all took the overnight bus ride in from Bangalore. 
Salgaocar FC vs Churchil in Vasco

Bangalore getting their I-League trophy in Margao

Hundreds of supporters traveled from Bangalore to support their club
Over the next few days, in between our meetings we were able to watch Dempo SC play against Sporting Club de Goa in the finals of the GFA Knockout Tournament, check out the AIFF U-19 training ground and even visit the AIFF elite Academy where the future stars of Indian football currently reside including prodigy and Libero player Uttam Rai. In the mornings when you pick up paper, it’s so refreshing to see two whole pages dedicated to domestic football. 
Dempo SC vs Sporting Club de Goa for GFA Knockout Tournament Final at Duler Stadium in Mapusa 
Chowgule College where India U19 team trains
With Uttam Rai at the AIFF Elite Academy in Margao

In Delhi, the country’s capital, I’m lucky to catch a professional or Academy match a couple times a year whereas in just a few days in Goa I was able to attend three quality matches. Although I’m glad that a beautiful place like Goa also happens to be an Indian football hub, I really hope that the amount of professional football in other parts of the country begins to pick up soon or an entire generation living in multiple metros across India will experience life without having access to watching live professional football matches in their hometown. 

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