Salgaocar FC shutting shop shocks former stars Barretto, D’ Cunha
At a time when football is supposedly wearing a positive outlook in the country, the closure of one of the most widely followed clubs raises questions about the future of such historic clubs
It’s been a week since the news of Salgaocar FC, one of the biggest powerhouses of Goan and Indian football, closing down their senior squad had gone public. They did not apply for participation in Goa Pro League for the first time in 67 years – a shocker - which ironically was overshadowed by the national team’s stirring show in the SAFF Championship in Bengaluru.
At a time when football is supposedly wearing a positive outlook in the country, the closure of one of the most widely followed clubs in the state of sunny beaches, Fenni and football raises questions about the future of such historic clubs. It’s the third such club in the new millennium who found running a professional club untenable after the JCT Mills (2007) and the Mahindras United (2007).
Incidentally, the Goan heavyweight like Salgaocar, Dempo FC and Churchill Brothers – which kept a vibrant club football culture running over the decades – could never accept the elevation of the newly formed Indian Super League (ISL) as the premier club competition of the country in 2016. They had pulled out of the I-League, the erstwhile National League, as it was scaled down to be a second tier competition.
The news has dampened the spirits of a section of Salgaocar and Goan stars that the National Herald spoke to, though someone like Franky Barretto, a former star defender and member of their National League winning team in 1999-2000 feels all is not not lost. Welcoming the team management’s decision to at least retain the junior teams and it’s community outreach programme, the Dubai-based Barretto said: ‘’The closure of the Salgaocar senior teams will definitely a big blow for the Goan football in particular and Indian football as a whole, I am happy that the club decided to keep the Under-13 and Under-15 team’s operations.
‘’This means there is hope that one day, we may see Salgaocar back to where they belonged in Indian football,’’ said Barretto, who currently runs a coaching academy in Dubai.
There was once a perception that the Goan players, for all their finesse and flair with the ball, were reluctant to step out of the comfort zone of their state and test themselves in the pressure cooker atmospherenat of the game in Kolkata. A notable exception to the rule was the explosive left winger Alvito D’ Cunha, who agreed to an offer from East Bengal in 2002 and had gone onto make the City of Joy his home after a prolonged career here.
However, D’Cunha is forever grateful to Salgaocar for giving him the launching pad as an youngster. ‘’It’s true that I flourished as a professional in Kolkata, but it’s Salgaocar where I had learnt the basics. I cherish some unforgettable memories like being a part of their National League winning team as an youngster under Shabbir Ali’s coaching,’’ said D’ Cunha.
There are several ‘firsts’ that the green shirts have to their credit – starting with them being the first Goan team to compete in a significant all-India competition in the DCM Trophy in 1962 barely a year after Goa was freed. They also became the first team from the state to win the Federation Cup (1988) and then Durand Cup & National Football League in the same year (1999).
‘’The AIFF would do well to create a roadmap whereby clubs such as Salgaocar, which played a key role in building the ecosystem of Indian football are not lost,’’ D’Cunha added.