There were 26 Goans present at Bhavnagar when Goa clashed against Gujarat in the final game of the West Zone Qualifiers for the Santosh Trophy. However, when referee Shantan Agarwal blew the full time whistle, just one Goan was seen celebrating and the rest 25 walked with their heads down as Goa were handed a shock and unexpected 0-1 defeat by Gujarat in the final league game –the result which sent the five-time national champions packing.
The entire State was saddened and shocked with the news of Goa losing to Gujarat and bowing out at the Group phase. If the back to back FC Goa defeats were hard for the Goan football enthusiasts, this was something unexpected and unimaginable for the passionate Goans who now started to doubt Goa’s progress in the beautiful Game.
But for the lone Goan celebrating, it was his biggest feat! He wasn’t celebrating Goa’s loss, but his team’s victory against one of the most competitive teams in the competition. Calangute based Coach Marcelino Pereira led the pack of the unheard Gujarat side which managed to send Goa packing as Prabaldeep Khare’s 32nd strike was enough for his side to see them through.
Goa finished second behind Gujarat on six points while the leaders finished undefeated with seven points.
Coach Marcelino was jubilant about his side’s progress but apologised to the thousands of Goan fans who just couldn’t accept the defeat against the minnows. “I am sorry to break the Goan hearts. Goa and Goan football has always been close to my heart,” stated Marcelino Pereira who had earlier worked with many top Goan clubs before taking the assignment to coach the Gujarat state team.
–Dedicates this feat
to fellow Goan coaches–
“I was given this opportunity by Gujarat State and I had to give my best for the team. And today I have proved what I am capable of doing,” stated Marcelino.
And Marcelino didn’t shy from celebrating with his young Gujarat team, which had unfamiliar players, as it was a matter of pride for a coach for beating the so-called giants of Indian football where he was doubted in his own State.
“I dedicate this victory to all my fellow Goan coaches who work hard like me but don’t get a chance in Goa,” stated an emotional Marcelino who further thanked God and his family for supporting him.
–A sad day for
While that was in Gujarat, thousands of kms down South, Arjuna Awardee and two-time Santosh Trophy champion was shocked knowing the result. “Saddened to learn about Goa’s defeat against Gujarat and exit from the tournament,”
“It’s sad that Goa bowed out so early. The group phase should have been a cakewalk. We are supposed to be a big brand in football but this shouldn’t have happened. It’s a good lesson for us. We should work towards rectifying the areas we need to improve,” stated Brahmanand Sankhwalkar, who is now the chairman of Goa Football Development Council.
GFA President Churchill Alemao was also saddened with the result of his team and said, “It’s a result which we least expected. The team won the first two games but this wasn’t expected from the last game. We are sad about the result and the exit from the Santosh Trophy.”
“Did we really lose to Gujarat? This is totally unacceptable. Have we fallen so low in terms of football standards? I just can’t believe this. We need to work on our system as we have the best talent which is ignored by the governing body,” stated Savio Fernandes, a vivid Goan football fan from Loutolim.
Goa just needed a point to progress from the last game. However, there were many doubts raised regarding the State team selection. However, it’s only after the defeat, some of the GFA executive committee members spoke out that the committee was kept in the dark about the team’s selection.
“It’s very shocking that Goa is out of the Santosh Trophy. The GFA Executive Committee was kept in the dark as far as selection of the team was concerned and I failed to understand whether the team was selected on this year’s performance or on the performance of practice matches?” questioned a senior executive committee member from Bardez.
The official revealed that some members had approached the chairman of the coaching and technical committee and manager of the team to take everyone in confidence before finalising the team along with other officials but that didn’t happen.
“In my opinion this is the worst performance of Goan team as far as Santosh Trophy is concerned and shame on us for losing against Gujarat. This is absolutely unacceptable!” stated another aggrieved member.