Goan football has little cause to look back

Against the backdrop of Goa's rich historical traditions, football was introduced in the relatively recent past.

And even then, its introduction was so innocuous that most of us Goans haven't the slightest idea of how and when it happened. Practically everyone we meet assumes that it came about by the natural osmosis of culture that was bound to permeate our lifestyles during 500 years of Portuguese presence in Goa. Others simply believe that, since every Goan child can kick a ball at about the time it is able to take its fIrst precarious step, Goans would take to Football like fish to water. Nothing could be further from the truth!

There are only three people in Goa who have actually researched this subject in some depth. Journalists Cyril D'Cunha, Carlos Xavier and the late Ajit Moye. While the works of the former two writers are available for reading at the Central Library in Panjim, (though conspicuously absent from almost every bookshop in Goa) , that of Moye is unavailable since he died before it could be published by the Directorate of Sports & Youth Affairs, who had, we think, commissioned the writer. It would be just and fair, in the scheme of things, to pay a rich tribute to these three writers, who, no doubt, were inspired by the enchantment of the average Goan for this king of all sports.

Before we proceed, however, it might be worth exploring the origins of the game itself. According to Federation Internationale de Football Association, the governing body of the game in the world, football was played in ancient China and Japan, classical Greece and Rome. In Italy, it was called Calcio because it was played with the foot. William the Conqueror took it to England when the Normaris invaded the Isles. The fIrst football club was formed in Sheffield in Yorkshirey England, in 1857. Although an attempt to frame rules (or the game was first made in 1848, it wasn't until 26th October, 1863 when the first Code of Rules were drafted by representatives of the various Universities in England. They met at the Freemason's Tavern at London and formed the Football Association (FA) to immediately implement and enforce the Code. The interpretation and enforcement of the Code (and later the Laws of the Game) were left to the FA. After the formation of FIFA at Rue Saint Honore 229, in Paris on 21st May 1904, the International Committee of FIFA has been entrusted with this task.

Football was brought to Goa in 1883 by Rev Fr William Robert Lyons, who came to Siolim, in Bardez taluka, from Udipi, in the neighbouring state of Karnataka, to recover from health problems. He liked Goa so much that instead of returning, he founded a school at Siolim and introduced the sport there. He was also responsible for putting sports into the curriculum. Therefore, relying on available records, Fr Lyons might well be considered as the father of the game in Goa. When S1. Joseph's School was shifted to Arpora, Fr. Lyons was made its first principal and football occupied a prominent place in its curriculum. Later, in 1893, Antonio Francisco de Souza, from Siolim, introduced the game at a private English school in Assolna, in Salcete taluka, maintained by the Sociedade de Beneficencia e Instrucao de Assolna, Velim e Cuncolim, where he was the headmaster and that is how football came to Salcete. Interestingly, it was in that same year that football was declared the national sport of Portugal. In the early days, the Seminarians of Rachol fielded teams to play at Rachol and Margao. Once ordained as priests, they took the game to the villages of the parishes to which they were posted. No wonder then, that Goa still has such a strong football franchise at the village level and, until today, a fair number of priests are die-hard promoters of the game.

The first reference to a football match played in Goa is in 1900 at Panjim at the Largo da Conceica and witnessed by the then Governor General of Goa. From 1901 to 1910, football was regularly played at Panjim, Taleigao, Saligao, Assagao, Candolim, Calangute, Mapusa, Assolna, Margao, Vasco da Gama and Colva.

Probably the first club in Goa was formed in the coastal village of Colva in Sa1cete named as the Boys Social Club in 1905, under the direction of Mr X.N. Dainaito, to play football among other sports. Prominent among",he institutions and clubs that played the sport at the time are St. Mary's College, Saligao, Colegio de Arpora, Lic-Lac Club, Saligao, Clube de Recreio e Letras de Porvorim, Sacred Heart of Jesus, Parra, Instituto Academico de Taleigao, Associacao Academica do Liceu Central, Panjim, New English School, Mapusa, Clube Coutinho Cabral, Panjim, Gremio Literario e Recreativo, Mapusa, Colegio Ingles de Assagao, Boys Social Club, Colva, English High School, Margao, Western India Portuguese Railway School, Vasco da Gama, Goa Hindu Club, Clube Sportivo, Panjim, St. Mary's School, Assolna and St. Xavier's High School, Margao.

The first inter-state football match played in Goa, featuring a Bombay team, was in 1905, between St. Mary's College, Bombay and Panjim Boys. Among the spectators was the Governor General and his wife, with the Military Band in attendance. The first match featuring a foreign team was between Britons and Margao Boys at Largo dos Quarteis in Margao in which the Britons won 1-0. During Diwali, also at Margao, two teams of Hindu boys played a match on a ground adorned with flags.

Between 1910 and 1920, a few infrequent matches were played at Panjim, Arpora, Saligao, Pilerne, Taleigao, Mapusa, Camorlim, Moira, Vasco da Gama and Margao. Large crowds would gather for these matches if these teams had players from Mater Dei, Saligao or St Joseph's, Arpora or Sacred Heart, Parra.

In 1923, a match between the British army officers and sergeants and a team of Portuguese Sports Amateurs drew a large crowd including women in fashionable attire. The match, held at the police grounds in Panjim, was ornamented with flags and the Police band was in attendance playing the national anthems of both the countries. The Portuguese Amateurs won the match. This could well be the first international match in Goa. The referee of the match was the Navy's First Lieutenant, Juvenal da Silva. In the same year, a popular contest in the form of Grande Torneio de Futebol,do Gremio Literio e Recreativo de Mapuca - Taca Hercules, became an annual feature at the Duler grounds ih North Goa. Jeremias Lobo was the driving force behind this contest and the home team won this tournament. Successive editions yielded the following results: 1924-25 Calangute; 1925-26 -Not held; 1926-27 -Groupo Desportivo de Nova Goa; 1927-28 - Groupo Desportivo de Nova Goa; 1924-25- Argus dePanjim; 1929-30-Argusde Panjim; 192425 - Clube St. Antonio de Siolim; 1931-32 - Argus de Panjim.

Thereafter Siolim Oxel Unidos won the Trophy for three consecutive years and kept the Cup. Undaunted, Jeremias started the Taca S. Jeronimo, named after the patron Saint of Mapuca parish and this was hotly contested and won by the following teams: 1935-36 - Hanuman Sporting Club, Mapuca; 1936-37 - Born Jesus XI, Nachinola; 1937-38 - Clube Desportivo Vasco da Gama, Mormugao; 1938-39 - Hindu Sporting Club, Mapusa. At around the same time, in South Goa, Gremio Literario Scientifico e Artista of Murida (Cuncoliin) taking a cue from the north, formed a committee to organise football tournaments. The committee consisting of Rogaciano Rebelo, Dr. Gabriel Maria Saldanha, Dr. Constancio Consta, Dr. Eduardo Lourenco, Dr. Inacio Almeida and Manuel Almeida organised a tournament in whichteams like Club Juvenil A, Present and Past Students B; Assolna A; Juvenil B; Luso Indian I~ National Sporting Club; Gremio Literario Scientifico e Artista; Grupo Francisco Luis Gomes; Gallant U. Club; National Sporting Club, Grupo Hercules, Margao; Indu Union Club (Margao): Present and Past Students A; Grupo Patria (Vasco da Gama) played for the honours. In 1930, the first All Goa football tournament organised by the Hindu Sporting Club of Mapuca was held on the ground opposite Hanuman Theatre.

On 6th October, 1939, stung by some severe criticism in the Portuguese press about how badly sports activities especially football tournaments in Goa were run, the Associacao de Futebol da India Portuguesa (AFIP) was formed to bring about some semblance of organisation into the game. In May that year the first official Goan Football selection went to Belgaum to play against the Officers Training School to raise funds for the Belgaum War Charity Fund. The Goan team won 2-1 both goals being scored by Aguiar. For the first time, an element of planning entered the Goan football arena.

A noted team from Bombay, Young Goans, visited and played at Duler, winning against the Goa selection 2-1, which featured the famous Sheik Aboo in the forward line and EX de Souza in goal, on 18th February, 1940. The next day, the visitors played against St. Joseph's School and were beaten 2-0. Mention is made of the first good Referee from Goa at this match, Willie Lobo, who was praised by the visiting team. In May, 1940, t~e official Goan selection traveled to Bombay after playing two practice matches - one against the crew of German Ships stranded at Mormugao Harbour, as a result of the World War, and the other against St. Joseph's School Arpora. In Bombay, the Goan team first played against South Kanara Sporting Association, which ended in a 1-1 draw despite the Goan Team taking the lead in the first minute of play through a left footed strike by Sheik Aboo. The next match was against Bombay (WIFA) selection in which Goa was defeated 2-0. The reports from Bombay were congratulatory as the Goan team had put up a tough fight.

The AFIP Alcantara Velho Cup tournament was staged in 1939-40 and the Burmah Shell Cup from 1940-42. St. Joseph's High School, Arpora, won all these. In 1942, AFIP also organised the inter-Concelho tournament which was won by the Concelho of Mormugao. Meanwhile, several inter-village tournaments were organised by patrons in villages as the game gradually took hold at grass-roots level. The attempt by the AFIP to organise football in Goa lasted a full 10 years before it was dissolved in 1949. The reasons are unknown though one could guess at either Goa's famous apathy, lack of funds and loss of interest from the constituents of the game, or perhaps, through despondency at its inability to obtain affiliation to the Federacao Portuguesa de Futebol.

In 1951, therefore, the Conselho de Desportos de India Portuguesa, a government run Sports Council, was charged with administering the game. The Concelho de Desportos set up the first League in Goa as the All Goa Football Tournament which had a First and Second Division. Simultaneously, D. Augusto de Noronha e Tavora (Lube) donated a trophy called the Taca Portugal, which was won by Nerul village in Tiswadi. The biggest step forward taken by the Conselho was when its President, the following year, enforced booted play, a practice hitherto not followed anywhere in India.

The first foreign Club to visit Goa was Ferroviarios of Lourenco Marques (Mocambique) which arrived on our shores in 1955 during its tour of the Far East. They beat the Goa Selection 5-1 on 18th February in front of 20,000 spectators. That same year, the first floodlit match was played at Old Goa the then capital of Portuguese-ruled Goa. Major Faustino Duarte, President of the Conselho de Desportos da India Portuguesa, took the initiative to organise the game in the open space, where the statue of Luis de Camoes was later placed, between the First Division Selection and the Second Division selection on 27th April. No prizes there for guessing which team won! Not to be outdone, though a little slow off the mark, Margao Cricket Club orgaqised, on 21st May, 1958, the next floodlit match Of! home territory between Onze Sa1cetanos and Mixto dos Clubes Ferroviarios e Salgaocar. The latter won 2-1.

In 1958, Clube Desportivo Salgaocar kept the Taca Trieri'a Salgaocar' after having won it for three consecutive years. Thereafter, they instituted the Taca de Ouro Salgaocar, which they again retained after having won it in 1958, 1959 and 1960. March 1959, saw a visit by the Port Trust Club of Karachi to Goa and in front of a 7000-strong crowd forced a 1-1 draw with a local selection. The return match at Margao was won by the local team 1-0, and sent the 15000 fans home satisfied.

After the return of the Karachi Port Trust team, Lt. 10ao Luis Aranha, who was then a member of the Conselho de Desportos da India Portuguesa, began lobbying the government in Portugal; for permission to form an autonomous organisation to manage the affairs of football in Goa. The leading argument presented by him to the Portuguese authorities was that football was extremely popular in Goa. Further, Goa had large open spaces which could easily be converted into stadia and football grounds and the general public would pay money to watch football matches in them. This argument sat well with a practically bankrupt government in Portugal, which was struggling to balance the budget in its colonies. On this fact alone, the sanction was accorded, with Goa being the first and only colony that was granted this special privilege.

The defining moment for Goan Football, in terms of its administration, therefore, was the formation of the Associacao Futebol de Goa, now the Gga Football Association, on 22nd December, 1959, with Lt. Imlo Luis Aranha as its first President. Since then, Goan Football has had little cause to look back.

. By Noel da Lima Leitao