BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
“How do you expect players to develop skills by playing eight matches a season? I need to play more often, and that is why I try to find an opportunity whenever and wherever I can,” says Shivam Baraik, as he waits for his other colleagues to arrive for training.
To hear a boy of nineteen think this way, augurs well for football in Goa, and that there exists a team to absorb excess talent is even better. This story unfolds as the twenty-odd players of Vasco United FC prepare for their training session after having been promoted, on debut, to the second division of the Goa Football Association (GFA).
Shivam Baraik is a young lad full of enthusiasm, not just for football, but for life. Confidence flows as he speaks; skill is apparent when he practices; and the drive to excel is visible as he motivates his colleague to practice.
“To be amongst the best footballers, I think any aspiring player should get an opportunity to at least be able to play thirty to forty matches during a season, as it is only after such exposure that one’s full potential can be tested,” avers nineteen-year-old Shivam, who first represented his school in the U-14 category.
“I am good at my studies and am good at sports. I play cricket during IPL and football at other times, but something tells me football is my career,” confesses Shivam with a smile brimming with confidence.
“I know I will reach there because I trust in God and my hard work,” adds Shivam, as he prepares to join his colleagues on the field.
A player’s taste for football can be gauged by the manner the ball is embraced and handled. That he is an above-average player can be observed when Vasco United FC captain Abel Gurjao tries to keep the ball within his grasp as he observes his colleagues getting ready for the workout.
“I like to take the ball away from my opponents when they are approaching my goal. Football is about total control, and for me, it means denying opponents any control when my team is playing,” reveals Abel, who is doing his second year of BA at MES College in Vasco.
“When I was fourteen, I played for Baina SC and never got an opportunity to play again. Therefore, I am happy that Vasco United FC is not just giving me but other boys from Mormugao a chance to play professionally,” says Abel, as he tries to brush off the plaudits of his colleagues about his defensive skills.
Watching the boys warm up are coach Yash Raj and Salgaocar FC star Ribhav Sardessai. “There is plenty of football talent that cannot be noticed because of a lack of platforms to excel. That is why my mentor Derrick Perreira and I decided on this initiative,” discloses coach Yash.
“We start with discipline and everything falls in place thereafter. The love for football from the boys just flows and with lessons on how to sharpen their skills, their style of play gets charming,” says Yash as he keeps prodding them that their Third division win was just the beginning of a long journey.
“I still play, but by helping the boys in this team, I have been able to better understand the mind of my coach and realise how the mind of a player reacts to instructions from a coach. It is a learning lesson for me as I teach the boys,” confides Ribhav, whose potential to shine on the national stage is immense.
Ribhav was picked by most national coaches for the Indian junior teams in the past but never made it because of his physical stature. Yet, the player who enjoys helping others grow is adamant that his day to break free on the field will come soon.
“I will be free of the contract with Salgaocar FC soon, and I intend to play for an I-League or ISL team this coming season. In the meantime, I will share and learn with the boys,” says a simple Ribhav.
“We did not get a taste of what it is to play professional football. By starting this club and giving us an opportunity to play in the third division, we now know what to expect ahead and we are enjoying the experience,” confides Vasco United FC goalkeeper Shayne Afonso.
The twenty players and the two coaches of Vasco United FC are the initial flavoursome serving of football that India’s renowned Derrick Pereira has in store. The next step is to get the boys registered under CRS (Centralised Registration System) because Derrick believes money will flow when intentions are transparent – just as he is.