With seven matches and 14 goals, which sums up to an average of two goals a match, the first round of the Goa Professional League (GPL) organised by the Goa Football Association (GFA) was far from entertaining.
The glimmer came in the last match through Churchill Brothers when coach Keenan Almeida stood out with his tactical thinking and striker Trijoy Dias ended as the dominant player of the first round.
Churchill Brothers, despite being a goal down against new entrants Geno SC, enthralled the few spectators with their ability to switch play and long strikes at goal that got the best out of Geno goalkeeper Akshat Hadkonkar – one of the few Goan players in the team.
Football displayed by most teams in the first round was lacklustre. Most teams fielded new faces with the exception of Vasco Sports Club and Geno SC, which had a string of outstation players, thus leaving the fans with little football to cheer about.
Lack of ball control, ability to change play and inability to find spaces were the three ills seen during the first round and with few local players able to shine with goals, there was hardly any value for money.
Keenan Almeida, a formidable player, and now a coach, brought in Fhezer Gomes and Shrine Clemente after being down by a dominant Geno to turn the tables and leave the latter at the receiving end for the remaining part of the game.
Dempo Sports Club despite having senior players fielded a string of youngsters according to reports to shield their senior players for the I-league, but by doing so they were depriving them of match practice which is the essence of growth. A player, according to FIFA recommendations, needs to play 45 games a season.
Dempo SC and Sporting Club de Goa are both in the third Division of the I-league and that entails five matches. If they qualify for the second division they would end up playing around a total of 20-odd games, far less than the stipulated 45.
Trijoy and Hayden Fernandes are showing their abilities to be part of their I-league team along with Mackenzie Fernandes. In In their game on Saturday, Churchill Brothers' players showed understanding and maturity to re-stitch themselves when the chips were down thus earning the most cheers from the stands.
Football is about ball control with the mind, feet and body and the thirteen teams were short of showing any form of respectable control. Maybe, it is because it is too early but in the early days of the league it was evident that football space in Goa is now being occupied by players from outside the state.
Geno SC paid Rs 50 lakh to get an entry into the Professional league and must have paid quite a bit to Minerva Punjab FC to get their players to represent them. “Eight of my players are on loan and so is the coach,” Minerva Punjab Academy owner Ranjit Bajaj told Gomantak Times Digital.
Pax of Nagoa paid Rs 30 lakh and assembled a team that consisted of many players from the disbanded Salgaocar Football Club. Teams gaining entry into the GPL were expected to open windows for talent waiting to be tapped but that has not been the case.
Instead, the average wage of a GPL player hovers between Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000 and that in itself speaks of the way forward for football in Goa.