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World Cup mania grips soccer-crazy Goans

And I’m not complaining!

As the countdown to the World Cup 2014 in Brazil draws closer, adiposity most Goans in this football-loving paradise are placing their bets on their usual favourites: host nation and seven-time winner – Brazil. But if you look hard enough, you will find a good number of supporters of the defending champions, Spain, and others going for Argentina, Germany, Italy, England and, of course, Portugal. Writer Gary Azavedo takes a closer look at this World Cup season, and walks us through how it’s likely to be played out right here in Goa.

On Thursday, June 12, 2014, billions of football lovers all over the globe will be glued to their television screens to watch host nation Brazil kick off its samba-styled march towards the ultimate goal at the inaugural World Cup 2014 match against the emerging soccer powerhouse, Croatia.

As the climax to the month-long tournament that will conclude on Sunday, July 13, draws nearer, the World Cup frenzy will have affected pretty much every Goan. Even those who don’t give a damn about football won’t be spared, as they’re likely to be drawn into the frenzy of Goans going gaga over the beautiful game.

Ultimate winners

Call it colonial solidarity, or just the moment’s craze. But Brazil is the overwhelming favourite among the people of Goa. Take professional footballer Gouramangi Singh, a midfielder for the IMG Reliance team. Singh remarks, “I favour Brazil to win because they are at home and do not have one big star. They have a brilliant player for every position and each of the 23 people in the squad have done well throughout the season. If they start well, they should go all the way.”

Other Brazil supporters include Anuj Kichlu, the 27-year-old CEO of ‘The Football Edge’, a football management firm, and

two prominent former international football players – Bruno Coutinho and Brahmanand Shankwalkar. East Bengal coach Armando Colaco and the former footballer now turned artist Yolanda de Souza Kammermeier, are also rooting for Brazil.

Joining their chorus is the Goa Football Development Council (GFDC) president Dr Rufino Monteiro, a cardiologist by profession, who exclaims, “My heart says it will be Brazil as they have the talent, the squad and the advantage of playing at home in front of their screaming fans!”

Former chief minister Churchill Alemao, who is the patron of Goa’s popular football team Churchill Brothers, too, backs Brazil. But he still wants to see Spain and Portugal go all the way to the finals. The Goa Boxing Association former general secretary Lenny da Gama also backs Brazil, but wouldn’t be terribly upset if either Germany or Spain clinched the World Cup 2014 trophy.

However, disagreeing with them is a 69-year-old retired National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) scientist, Stephen Dias. A resident of Dona Paula, Panjim, Dias is a veteran footballer who played for various teams during the Portuguese era.

Nothing against Brazil, he explains, but he wants Spain to take the trophy. Supporting his views are two professional footballers – Dempo Sports Club defender Samir Naik and Sporting Club midfielder (on loan) Mohammed Ishfaq Ahmed. The 30-year-old player from Srinagar, Kashmir remarks, “Spain is my favourite because they have been playing some awesome football from the last World Cup and you can always expect great goals from all their matches.”

The experienced East Bengal coach Colaco strikes a note of caution, stating that “anything can happen and one cannot write off the Netherlands!”


Surprise upsets

Belgium came up quite a bit when I asked Goans to talk about the World Cup. Says Kichlu, “The dark horses for the World Cup are Belgium but two other teams to watch out for will be Uruguay – being in South America, the weather conditions will suit them – and Japan, as their players acclimatise well everywhere and there isn’t any pressure on them.” Samir Naik, too, feels Uruguay and Chile will be the dark horses.

While for Singh, it is Belgium and England. “This time there is not much hype about England and they are under rated so they have young players who are performing well,” he opines. But Mazarello tips Argentina, remarking “They are determined to prove they can do it again without the ‘Hand of God’.”

Other nations that might just surprise us are former winners – Germany and France, Portugal, Colombia, Cameroon and Bosnia-Herzegovina.



When it comes to predicting who will be the two finalists facing off against each other at the Maracana stadium on July 13, there are many possible combinations, from the two South American powerhouses Brazil v/s Argentina to other combos such as Brazil v/s Germany, Brazil v/s Italy, Spain v/s Argentina, Spain v/s Germany or the possible favourite clash of some Goans: Brazil v/s Portugal!

Golden Boot winner & ‘golden gloves’

The favourite strikers for the topmost scorer of the World Cup 2014, the winner of the “Golden Boot”, are Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Lionel Messi (Argentina), Neymar (Brazil), Luis Suarez (Spain) and Mario Balotelli (Italy).  If you ask Goans, this year’s star goalkeepers are likely to be Iker Casillas (Spain) along with Thibaut Courtois (Belgium), Manuel Neuer (Germany), Julio Cesar (Brazil) and Gianluigi Buffon (Italy).

Kichlu remarks, “There are two goalkeepers to watch out for. According to me, first is Mat Ryan from Australia, particularly as his team will be on the defensive and Thibaut Courtois from Belgium who I feel is one of the three top keepers in the world.”

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Best Coach

When it comes to coaches, Goans are big fans of Brazil’s Luis Filipe Scolari for his strict, no-nonsense attitude of getting the best out of his players. Scolari, through his adept tactical formations, has won the World Cup for his team before. Other admired coaches are Joachim Loew (Germany), Vincente Del Basque (Spain), Alejandro Sabella (Argentina), Cesare Prandelli (Italy), Paulo Bento (Portugal) and Roy Hodgson (England).


Where to watch the games?

For many, the choice of where to watch the World Cup matches is limited to the cosy confines of their home. Why? Because these matches are being telecast “LIVE” in the early morning hours of around 2.30 am or 3.30 am. But senior citizen Stephen Dias informs that he will visit Panjim’s popular Clube Nacional and Clube Vasco da Gama to watch the matches. For 25-year-old Mandar Bandekar of Porvorim, it will be a visit to J29 in Candolim.

While Kolkata-based Kichlu and Colaco mention that they will watch it either at home or in the social clubs in Kolkata, Shankwalkar discloses that he might watch the later stages of the tournament with his pals at the Down The Road (DTR) pub.

Singh says that he “will follow as many matches as possible, especially of my favourite teams – Spain, England and Japan. I am doing a coaching licence in Goa for the first 10 days of the World Cup but I should watch the knockout stages onwards on holiday in Europe!”

Meanwhile, there is some good news for the World Cup fans as the GFDC president Dr Monteiro announced that the GFDC will screen the weekly highlights as well as the finals “LIVE” at all the GFDC centres across the state.


Most memorable World Cup experience

For Shankwalkar, it was the 1970 Mexico World Cup finals when Brazil beat Italy 4-1 at the Aztec stadium, with Carlos Alberto scoring the penultimate goal off a pass from Pele. “I was a young lad around 15 or 16 years old and I recollect pushing out my father’s car from the garage into the lane to hear the commentary, as in those days there was no television. This memory is still fresh in my mind,” he says.

Kammermeier, Alemao and Vaz wax nostalgically about the 1982 World Cup of the famous Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” victory for Argentina. Mazarello fondly recalls the 1994 World Cup when Brazil beat Italy. “Both were star-studded teams and it was pure joy to see them display their soccer skills.”

Singh fondly recalls the 1998 World Cup hosted by France wherein the host nation beat hot favourites Brazil 3 goals to nil. Singh remarks, “I remember Zidane (France) setting the World Cup on fire. Also Ronaldo (Brazil) was brilliant throughout the tournament but failed to click in the finals.”

Kichlu adds, “I have watched five World Cups from 1994 to 2010 but for me, the 1998 WC was the best although my favourite team Brazil lost. There were many close matches other than the finals.”

Will India ever make it to the World Cup?

Goans, like most Indians, are sceptical, due to present levels of corruption, lop-sided priorities of investors focussing only on cricket, and a host of other factors. But many are optimistic that change is possible if there is a revolution in the nation’s soccer body – the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and if the required infrastructure is created, with a firm emphasis on training at the grassroot level and proper exposure given to young talented footballers – providing them an opportunity to interact with outstation players and improve their skills. Setting up of academies and proper education for the coaches is also vital, points out Colaco.

Spend a little time talking to Goans about football, and it’s clear the will for change is there. Soccer-crazy Goans, like most other Indians, are keen to enter the football big leagues. With The World Cup upon us, now’s a good time step up efforts to make it happen.

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  1. dixonvaz

    Good site a typical goan chat and views and some famous goan personalities

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