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Goa football on decline, players hang up boots to join courier firms, politics, cruise liners

By Marcus Mergulhao | TNN| Panaji: Three years ago, Milagres Gonsalves was a hero. His winner for Kerala against his home state Goa in the Indian Super League saw him drawing praise from even Sachin Tendulkar. But three years down the line, Milagres has moved to England, not to play football but work for a courier company.

“There is nothing left for footballers in Goa anymore. The salaries on offer are meagre and nothing like what it used to be in the past,” Milagres told TOI over phone.

Milagres isn’t the only one to move abroad after hanging up his boots. Many promising footballers from the state—Dawson Fernandes, Valerian Rebello, Reagan Juliao, Branco Cardozo and Agnelo Martins to name a few —have discarded their jerseys for a workman’s clothes, some even trying their hand at local panchayat elections held here last month in the hope of pursuing alternative professions.

And those who have decided to fight it out, may be forced to look elsewhere if they don’t get picked up at the ISL’s domestic player draft in Mumbai on Sunday.

The tiniest state of the country, which was equally well known for its football as it was for its sun and sand, today hardly boasts of any of its legendary talent. From the six clubs that Goa had in the I-League, India’s premier football tournament, there is just one club representing the state at the national level.

And with the decline of football—the state sport—the demand for players has come down too. From the heydays of Goan football when Clifford Miranda, Climax Lawrence, Samir Naik and Mahesh Gawli took home close to Rs 1 crore every year, today most players have to settle for Rs 6 lakh.

Not too long ago, football was the most thriving industry in the state, rivaled only by mining and tourism. In 2012, the year Dempo SC became I-League champions for a record fifth time, the club spent approximately Rs 12 crore on player salaries alone, while rival clubs like Salgaocar FC, Churchill Brothers SC and Sporting Clube de Goa were not too far behind.

Outstation players had club coaches’ numbers on speed dial and agents pestered club officials with CVs of top players from across the globe. Everyone wanted to come to Goa to make a living out of football and Goans themselves were reaping the benefits.

“You have to hold the AIFF responsible for all this. Had three top Goan clubs not opted out (last year) because of faulty AIFF policies, Goan footballers would have not faced any problems,” said Goa Football Association president Elvis Gomes.

“We have decided to strengthen the Goa Pro League this season. Hopefully, the addition of a new team in the league will provide opportunities to several more footballers and a longer league would mean they will all have annual contracts. The money may not be as good as in the past, but I am sure they will all be able to earn decently,” said Gomes.

But Milagres isn’t impressed. “I was in Goa last month and inquired with clubs if there was an opening. The clubs need players but they are offering a pittance,” he said, hoping the golden days of Goan football won’t remain just in history books.


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One comment

  1. Playing football abroad and working while playing football cannot be considered as hanging their boots….

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