Winning, with or without Ronaldo, is all that matters to the Portuguese, while witnessing Portugal win with Ronaldo in action is akin to icing on the cake for the many Goans who flew to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022 and to those following the tournament. However, it was one substitution and the subsequent result that has woken football fans in Goa from slumber. The heat is on.
“It does not matter if we field one or eleven Ronaldos because our aim is to be world champions. As long the eleven Portuguese on the field can bring us the World Cup, we are happy. We won without Ronaldo, and if we continue winning without him, it’s ok with us,” said Sergio Monteiro from Portugal, otherwise a diehard Sporting supporter.
“We are happy with the win, but our celebrations will begin when we win the cup,” added Sergio.
Portugal’s thumping win against Switzerland has left football lovers in Goa happy and many who have returned home, after having watched Ronaldo live, exhilarated that they have fulfilled their life’s dream of watching Ronaldo play, and could be close to realising the dream of witnessing Portugal lift the World Cup.
“I would definitely prefer to watch Portugal win with Ronaldo playing, although he is not at his best. Portugal played their best last night without Ronaldo. Now that I have seen him play in person, I would prefer that Portugal continues playing with their best eleven,” opined Ernest Dias, COO of Sita who flew to Qatar to watch Ronaldo play.
“Ageing hits everyone. At 37 years, Ronaldo is no exception, although in his heydays he was a monster of a player. It must have taken the Portugal coach Fernando Santos real guts to bench Ronaldo, who is also the captain of the team,” shot back Antonio Botelho, football academician of Goa, who has been to many World Cups.
“Was Santos justified? In my opinion, yes. To his good fortune, Santos chose Goncalo Ramos as a replacement, and the 21-year-old Benfica striker did not disappoint, going on to secure the first hat-trick at the Qatar World Cup,” was Botelho’s perspective.
“I have seen Ronaldo play prior to the World Cup and obviously his age is showing more. Though his potential to spread fear among opponents has not disappeared. Football, like all other sports, is about winning because it is the ultimate entertainment. Portugal fans will not mind seeing him benched if that can assure the team the title,” thinks Caitano Fernandes, the president of Goa Football Association (GFA), who returned from Qatar to oversee preparations for the Goa Premier League (GPL) that started on December 6.
“Portugal winning is the ultimate joy. We have been following the Portuguese team for a long time. Watching Ronaldo there makes it better but is not the ultimate joy,” says Ashley Furtado, who also returned after witnessing Ronaldo play in Qatar.
“I think by substituting Ronaldo, the other players got a chance to exhibit their skills and optimised their position with the opportunity. As I said before, Portugal is creating some of the best football players today and hopefully, this World Cup will give them the platform and be the ground for Ronaldo to hang his international boots,” averred Omkar Vaigankar, a member of GFA Executive Committee, one among the many Goans who had flown to Qatar.
“Freed from Ronaldo’s yoke, the Portuguese team played confidently and the players appeared more relaxed and creative. In the last UEFA Champions Cup final between Manchester City and Real Madrid, Marcelo was the non-playing captain, but he received the trophy for Real. I visualise a similar role for Ronaldo, should Portugal be able to make it to the finals. For the intervening steps left to climb, his experience could be useful in the last twenty minutes or so of a match,” perceived Antonio Botelho.
“It will be the ultimate win for Ronaldo to have the World Cup in his trophy cabinet and a joy for the Portuguese and the team’s fans all over because of their patronage of Ronaldo. One substitution has brought a change in a team’s result and the effect is being felt in football circles all over Goa today,” concluded Caitano.
Portugal’s display on the field, more than the result, has added to the jubilation of football fans in Goa. From Portugal having a chance of winning the World Cup to Portugal having a far more realistic chance of reaching the finals – the pendulum shift has ignited the interest in fans to meet together to watch football.
Portugal just needed a change in players to spark the interest of the until recently apathetic football fans in Goa.