FC Goa unites a divided house in the sunny state
A banner at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Fatorda, during FC Goa’s league match against NorthEast United FC, reads, ‘Goans love football more than free wifi’. The entire state rallied to support the local team in the Hero Indian Super League and is today celebrating its scintillating turnaround in the inaugural season after a dismal start to the campaign. Every home match has been sold out and with the team ending the league stage of the campaign with two consecutive away games, the numerous supporter groups of various European clubs in the state are holding screenings at different venues all across Goa to witness the team’s march to the semi-finals.
Divided by loyalties to teams from various global leagues, everyone came together to commemorate the resurgence of the home side. One such screening (the Chennaiyin FC vs FC Goa match) was held in the capital city of Panaji at a local restaurant and bistro – Fantasia no Cantinho de Vovo. The atmosphere and energy was at an all-time high with spectators cheering every touch of the ball.
The brain behind the screening, Savio Pereira, in collaboration with the management of the restaurant, was delighted with the turnout. “I’m extremely happy with the number of people who attended the event. It shows the level of commitment towards supporting the local team,” said Pereira. Erlick Ferreira and Vasco Fernandes, owners of the venue, claimed that this wasn’t about business promotion. “This was a big match for the local side. Youngsters today are all about the sport and to host them at our restaurant is a pleasure. We’re not bothered about the business aspect as long as our guests have a good time. This was our main motive behind hosting such an event here,” they said. With close to 80 people turning up for the event, it definitely was a raging success.
André Santos has been one of the most important players for Zico’s side in propelling his team into the knockout phase. “Santos has been our midfield maestro. He has pace and strength along with great dribbling ability, which makes him perfect for our midfield. Also, I have to give credit to his set-piece taking ability,” said Elroy Figueiredo, admin and founding member of Arsenalites – a group of diehard Gooners based in Goa. Jeson Dias, another Arsenalite, chimed in saying he would like to see more teams feature in the tournament in the future so as to increase the buzz. “More teams in the ISL, I think, would benefit the game. Besides, that would mean more elite players coming to ply their trade in India,” he remarked.
MUFC- Goa, a group of Manchester United supporters, were also out in large numbers to cheer on the ‘Reddes’ (Konkani word for gaurs, the Indian bison, which is the emblem of the team). Admins of the group, Sharmad Dhond, Eric D’souza and Shane Caldeira, were quick to point out how FC Goa have united the state’s football fans. “Our population isn’t that big here and every fan club has their own screenings, be it Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester United. FC Goa have been the uniting factor as people from all these fan clubs come together to organise events,” they agreed.
It’s not only supporter groups that come together to organise screenings. The King’s School in Margao was another venue to promote the game. “We have over 1,900 students and parents at our screening today. It’s pretty much an ISL carnival here. The buzz to watch a crucial game and especially one that sees Goa go through to the semi-finals is exactly what our kids would want. The school is an avid supporter of the league,” said Neshwin Almeida, a teacher at the school.
Goa clearly loves its football. The fanfare in the state throughout the league season has been immense as Goans flock to Fatorda for every home match or make sure they are at some venue to watch the game on the big screen. Football in Goa is indeed a religion.