KOCHI: Goa used to be one of the epicentres of Indian football. In its glory days, the likes of Dempo SC, Salgaocar FC, Churchill Brothers, Sporting Clube de Goa and Vasco SC produced a steady supply of footballers. Brahmanand Sankhwalkar, Bruno Coutinho and Climax Lawrence were some of the finest footballers ever to have played for India.
Times have changed, and even though there is a renaissance with the emergence of Brandon Fernandes, Rowllin Borges, Adil Khan and Mandar Rao Dessai, the reality today is grim. Ever since Goa’s I-League clubs pulled the plug on national operations, there have been stories of Goan footballers quitting the sport and travelling to UK to find odd-jobs. Jessel Carneiro, who recently joined Kerala Blasters from former I-League champions Dempo, has had his share of bad experiences.
“The situation back in Goa is grim. Clubs are shutting down and the players have nowhere to go. Even the Association (Goa Football Association) is not doing anything to help the players. Their apathy is such that I remember this time when we travelled to another state for the Santosh Trophy. We were told that we will get reimbursement for all expenses and so we spent from our pockets. We got nothing in return. Another time we travelled in sleeper class with two persons sharing one berth. When the Association treats you like this, then where will we go?” Carneiro who captained Goa in the 2018-19 Santosh Trophy said.
Carneiro opines that Goan football has been reduced to FC Goa. It has almost become the be-all and end-all of football in the state. FC Goa is one of the two Goan clubs on the national scene and although Churchill Brothers are still competing in the I-League, they are struggling to stay relevant.
“Besides teams shutting down, the players there want to stay in Goa. They don’t want to play outside. This limits their chances and most of them have to settle for playing in the Goa Professional League. Not everyone can play for FC Goa. I decided to move out because I realised that in order to progress, you have to play outside of Goa,” the 29-year-old said.
At a time when Goan footballers are impressing on the national stage and with the arrival of a new national team coach, Carneiro sees a route into the national team.“I’m very happy to see so many Goan players playing for India, but there was a time when the national team had more players. Then it came down and now our players are coming up again. I want to progress too and play for the national team. I’m working very hard,” said Carneiro. Years of experience with Dempo SC and now a chance to shine with the Blasters, playing for the national team may not be a far-fetched dream after all.