BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
The quote of Bela Karolyi, "No competition, no progress", rolls past one’s mind at a time the eighty-day-old Executive Committee of Goa Football Association (GFA) decided to endorse the decision of the Competition Committee to cut down the number of matches in the First Division.
The First Division of GFA is a step before teams enter the Goa Professional League (GPL) and the reasons attributed to cutting the league do not augur well for football in Goa.
The letter sent to clubs states that the members felt that “a single league is not feasible due to time and ground availability constraints.” The excuses are worrying because during the term of the last executive, finance was a constraint and now ground is the alibi.
The First Division league, the second in the chain of command, in the new suggested format will give players no room to express their skills and the Competition Committee of GFA will be sending out a wrong signal to players and management of the 159 clubs affiliated to it.
Excuses to justify the new format have been flowing fast but none are able to stick because the last election was won on the promise of taking football forward and going back is definitely not the way forward.
The ruse that grounds are constraints does not hold water because a league held with 23 teams divided into two groups can be easily conducted within two months and as far as grounds are concerned, not very lately, Goa was celebrated as being the only state in India with the maximum number of playing grounds - fifty-two (52).
Now, the desire to host the league in the new format appears nothing short of a lame excuse or inability to think. The new format suggests that seven teams will be relegated to the second division thus reducing the number of teams next season to sixteen. Few members supporting the new proposal are of the opinion that it is not viable to have 23 teams in the First Division.
The question is: How did the First Division League end up with 23 teams? By blaming the past, the present members are not able to brush away the onus from them because most were members of the last executive and none – I repeat none – protested when the number of teams was being increased. So, why cry now? Is it because the dead tell no tales?
If the present dispensation is really interested in adding teeth to the First Division which will directly help the players, a way out is possible but definitely not this new format that the Competition Committee is trying to push through. And, the best way out is to have a threadbare discussion on the subject during the next Annual General Body Meeting (AGM) where the voice of all is heard.
If not, call for an Extraordinary General Body meeting and give credence to the fact that the voice of all clubs is paramount.
Some matches of Goa Premier League have been red-flagged – as in the past - again and this time during the term of Caitano Fernandes making it clear, that, if at all match-fixing is taking place it is because the fixers are exploiting the financial vulnerabilities of some players or rather one or two clubs that are run on shoe-string budgets - clubs runs as a business for the profit of a few.
Betting has been part of Goan football lore since many monsoons back. It never bothered then and is now because like ‘matka’ betting, football betting has shifted residence to the United Kingdom and big bucks provide bigger fireworks.
There was a time, a few years back, when an individual alleged to have been involved in betting in the UK was known to have shared the residence of a coach of a football team in the GPL. That was the dead end of the investigation or the pandemic saw its demise.
The sword of betting was used by the detractors of the then GFA president Churchill Alemao to discredit his running of the association and the same people who made the noise then are now running the association – Caitano Fernandes being the only exception.
The GFA, it has been reported, has asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate. Good as long as they do not return with worms.
When Churchill Alemao was at the helm of affairs, GFA suffered because of the lack of funds. New president Caitano Fernandes has brought in his own money and some in GFA are complaining that there are no sufficient grounds.
The cobwebs in GFA need to be gotten rid of because, four years from now, they will start saying, there are no players and this is where Caitano will need to start using his broom the most.
(The writer is a senior journalist, who, besides sports, covers social and human interest stories)