In love with the beautiful game

Brahmanand Shankwalkar is always eager to help youngsters find a footing in the world of professional football.-

Equipped with requisite football coaching licenses and trained in the art of coaching by Dietmar Crammer (Germany) and Billy Bingham (Ireland), Brahmanand Shankwalkar has a lot to offer. By Nandakumar Marar.

Brahmanand Shankwalkar, former India goalkeeper and now the goalkeeping coach at the Sesa Football Academy, firmly believes that youngsters in Goa can consider football as a possible career option. With foreign clubs coming in for talent scouting and positive parental support teenagers in the region are finding it easier to pursue their dreams.

International clubs like Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal, Celtic and Leicester City have already held various scouting camps in the state. “Goan kids are getting picked by Barcelona, Manchester United, Celtic and Arsenal to train at their academies. These juniors are then absorbed by clubs in Goa for their developmental squads,” points out the former India captain, who was named Player of the Decade (1985-1995) by the All India Football Federation.

Four under-12 players from the state (Flan Gomes, Bevan Monteiro, Ayan Lall and Samward Pereira) are part of a nine-member Indian squad participating in the FCB Escola International Tournament at Barcelona’s Mini Estadi, situated next to the famous Camp Nou.

Goan clubs like Salgaocar SC, Dempo SC, Sporting Clube de Goa, Vasco SC and Sesa SC have invested heavily on youth development and aspiring footballers have a lot of option in the state. “Hard working kids can rise through the ranks and become pro footballers. I keep telling kids that they are the Managing Directors and CEOs of their career. They have to take charge of their lives to make a living out of football,” he says.

Striker Mauvin Borges of Sesa Academy, chosen as the most promising under-20 youngster at the Goa Football Development Council’s conference called GIFT 2013, has already made a name for himself, scoring a clutch of goals in the under-20 I-League in Jamshedpur.

India under-19 player Brandon Fernandes from Benaulim, who joined Cape Town’s African Soccer Development Academy three years ago, has attracted attention in Europe and has already attended trials at English clubs, Reading and Leicester City.

Scottish giants Celtic selected Lesten Martins, an under-15 player, for the Gary Lineker Scholarship in 2009. The Leicester City Academy squad came down on an exposure tour and efforts are on to send a team from Goa to England.

“Goan youngsters are happy-go-lucky but gradually their approach is changing. Players from other states are willing to work harder and are hungrier for opportunities and slowly the youngsters here, too, understand the importance of it,” Brahmanand observes. “I had opportunities to work with junior players from Mumbai and they are intelligent and dedicated. You need those qualities to convert natural talent into performance. But parents in Mumbai don’t see football in the right light and these players lose touch with the game after Class XII.”

He adds: “Parents in Goa support their children. The following for the game is different here, attendances at inter-village tournaments across the state is more than I-League ties on the same days. When four or five boys from one village are playing, family members, neighbours or relatives naturally will come to watch the game.”

Amateur footballers can easily earn up to Rs 2,000 per game and there is always the added incentive of catching the eye of the I-League club scouts.

These inter-village events, advertised in local newspapers and attracting prize money to the tune of Rs. 1 lakh, have pitch-forked many a new faces into club football. India midfielder Joaquim Abranches, playing for Verna SC, was spotted by Churchill Alemao at an inter-village tournament and now he is playing for India under Wim Koevermans.

Star players in Goa like Mahesh Gawli, Climax Lawrence and Clifford Miranda are earning up to Rs. 80 lakh per season and success stories like that inspire the youngsters.

Brahmanand, however, has concerns about the overall development of the game in the country. “We have a foreign national coach, foreign Technical Director (Robert Bann) and the head of AIFF Academies is also a foreigner (Scott O’Donnell). I appreciate what they are trying to do in India but I want to know what sort of methods we are following, what kind of players we want,” he says. “I wonder whether they are getting the right kind of advice or if they are consulting the right people,” he adds.

Equipped with requisite football coaching licenses and trained in the art of coaching by Dietmar Crammer (Germany) and Billy Bingham (Ireland), the former India international has a lot to offer to Indian football.