Rhys Mascarenhas, 28, found his love for football by accident. His uncle engaged in football and usually asked ten year old Rhys to accompany him to the games, often having to bribe him with an ice cream or Coca Cola. Today, Rhys is an ardent follower of the sport and is a partner in his own sports talent management agency.
This month, the footie fan from Vasco has been visiting Tilak Maidan, Vasco, everyday to watch FC Goa train. Speaking about the football franchise, FC Goa, he says, “This team looks very promising. There are a lot of youngsters playing in it and they are very dedicated to their game. Moreover they have Zico coaching them!”
“FC Goa has a fabulous line up,” opines Richard Dias, Business Partner, Radioactive Entertainment and an ardent football lover, “I’m an Arsenal fan so it’s exciting to see Robert Pires and Andre Santos been signed up for the team. I saw the friendly matches that FC Goa recently played against Sesa FA and the India U-19; it was a good game. With the team putting up a good game, it will only get stronger.”
Yolanda Souza, artist and a former international football player says, “FC Goa is a great initiative, we have really good backing in the name of Zico and this will help us move one step forward. Zico is magic, but for magic to work, all the players should put their best foot forward; it is only time that will tell what happens.”
Sharing his thoughts on the Indian Super League, Rhys Mascarenhas comments, “ISL has evoked an interest in a lot of people. Due to the influence of ISL, a lot of non-football lovers are also nurturing an interest in football. FC Goa, for instance has the star power of Zico and Robert Pires; the kind of buzz this has created among the public is evident in the reception they are getting. ISL will increase the followers of football, improve the infrastructure of the sport in India and sponsors will also come in as a result.”
Noel Rodrigues, 65, has been a frequent visitor to Tilak Maidan, Vasco and in more than half a century, the sexagenarian has watched hundreds of matches on the local, national and international level. “I have been watching matches on this ground since my childhood. Football has evolved a lot since then not just in terms of the infrastructure but also the professionalism. But, I had never imagined in my wildest dreams that someone like Zico or Robert Pires would come to Goa and train our local boys to play at this level of competition”, exclaimed Noel.
Shy and soft spoken, Danny Furtado, 21, makes sure that he finishes his work every day at The HQ Hotel, Vasco as soon as possible so that he and his companions can watch their football hero Robert Pires train at the ground. The boys had designed and printed a colourful banner displaying Pires and FC Goa and turned up at the Dabolim Airport to welcome their hero. “There was a lot of crowd so we couldn’t reach him,” says a starry-eyed Danny, “But we have been visiting the grounds everyday simply to watch him play and will get the banner signed by him soon.” he adds opening up the 5X6 banner that he was carrying along to get autographed.
Commenting on the contribution of ISL to Indian football, fans feel that there will be a lot of improvement in the quality of football in Goa which will assist in elevating the standard of the game. “We have a lot of big names in the team, so one can expect FC Goa to perform exceedingly well,” opines Noel Rodrigues. “The players have been implementing the skills taught to them by Zico; this was evident in the friendly’ game that FC Goa played opposite Sesa FA and the India U-19 squad.”
Rhys also points how the humility of the Brazilian football legend is helping boost the confidence of the players. “Coaches usually monitor the training sessions and make the assistant coach do all the running around. Unlike them, Zico himself is training the players, ably assisted by Arthur Papas. He is constantly guiding them and instructing them how to go about it. He’s very relaxed on the field and does not put any pressure on the players either. Also, training under the wing of Zico, players can probably aid in incorporate the Brazilian style of play.”