Educating children on Indian football

Celebrities (from left) Dr. Rufino Monteiro of GFDC, Sunil Chetri, Syed Naeemuddin, Magan Singh, actor Suneil Shetty, Bernard Pereira and Inder Singh during a parade in Goa.-Celebrities (from left) Dr. Rufino Monteiro of GFDC, Sunil Chetri, Syed Naeemuddin, Magan Singh, actor Suneil Shetty, Bernard Pereira and Inder Singh during a parade in Goa.

Football players are celebrities in Goa. Therefore, when the current and former India stars went on a parade in Panjim, with stopovers at five schools, there was excitement all around.

It was part of the Goa Football Development Council’s plan to create awareness among the schoolchildren about the famous Indian footballers at a time when players from Europe are becoming household names, thanks to the telecast of European leagues.

The children from the five schools were excited by the presence of India captain Sunil Chetri. He was accompanied by four veterans who, in their heydays, had wowed crowds across India. Strikers Inder Singh and Magan Singh (both Arjuna Award winners), Bernard Pereira, who played international football when India was a major force at the Asian level, and Syed Naeemuddin, also an Arjuna Award winner who went on to become a reputed coach and was honoured with the Dronacharya award, added lustre to the parade.

Actor Suniel Shetty, who is a football fan, joined them in the parade and made an impact on the kids.

Naeemuddin was overwhelmed by the reception he got from the schoolchildren. “Goa does everything in style. The football parade is one of those moments I won’t forget. There is passion for the game here, I saw it in the eyes of the schoolchildren,” he said.

The most recognised person was Chetri, who interacted with the kids, saying, “I did not know what to do in life till Mohun Bagan offered me a place it the team. That is when the thought of a football career struck me.”

Chetri, who had played for Sporting Lisbon B in Europe before joining Churchill Brothers on loan, explained to the kids the importance of sport in life. “You are fortunate to have many career choices and people to advise you on how to get there,” he said.

The former Asian All-Star player, Inder of Punjab’s Leader Club, former India captain Magan of Rajasthan Armed Constabulary and Bernard of Vasco SC in Goa and Orkay SC in Mumbai, delighted the fans and terrorised defences at a time when there was no live television coverage.

The parade, an initiative of the GFDC under Dr. Rufino Monteiro to take the game to the kids, is part of a conference titled GIFT 2013.

Nandakumar Marar