Panaji, July 23 (IANS) The exit of Goan businessmen Shrinivas Dempo and Dattaraj Salgaocar as co-owners of FC Goa and the possibility of casino honcho Jaydev Mody’s Deltin Group stepping into their shoes, has evoked mixed reactions among fans of the ‘beautiful game’ in the football-crazy state.
Dempo and Salgaocar, both of whom owned around 30 per cent stake in FC Goa, on Friday, had called it quits from the Indian Super League (ISL) team claiming “deep distress” linked to developments following their controversial punch-up with Chennaiyain FC’s victorious captain Elano Blumer, immediately after the ISL final in December 2015.
“The deduction of points and reduced fines brought joy, but the owners exit has also dampened it. It will not be the same anymore, but I will continue to support FC Goa,” says Larina Fernandes, a fashion designed from Parra village in North Goa told IANS.
While both Dempo and Salgaocar were formerly linked to the controversial, but influential mining industry in Goa, the duo are associated with Goa’s popular football clubs, Dempo Sports Club and Salgaocar Football club.
Both clubs have played top-tier football and emerged champions on many occasions. Success in football has been raison d’etre for a large section of the population of India’s smallest state and the success of these teams, and others like Churchill Brothers, Club Vasco, Sporting Clube de Goa, Sesa Goa almost organically inspired regional pride.
However, the exit of the Dempo-Salgaocar duo from FC Goa and the very real possibility of the Deltin Group — which operates three offshore casinos in Goa — picking up the majority stake in the team, has queered the pitch somewhat for several die-hard fans.
“Spirit of sports continues, but the soul of the tournament, the franchise, the Goenkarpan (Goanness) no more. ISL/FC Goa will not be same, at least for me. Feeling sad for Goan football. God bless my FC Goa,” said Goa-based comedian Paresh Parab.
Dr. Francisco Colaco, a well-known medical professional from Margao is not as cryptic as Parab, in his critique of the developments.
“It is regrettable that the Forca Goa franchise is being sold to a casino baron…” says Colaco, asking those who are against casino culture to “raise a banner of protest”.
Goa’s casino industry has courted consistent controversy and the expansion of the industry, due to overt support from successive Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition governments have been a subject of unending debates in the state legislative assembly, newsprint and the cafes and taverns in the politically passionate state.
The exact nitty gritty of the Deltin Group’s bid to pick up a majority stake in FC Goa isn’t, however, clear yet, even though negotiations have been on for a while now.
“We are bidding for the FC Goa football team for a majority stake. However, the negotiations are still on and we cannot say anything now. It can go either way,” Deltin Group’s regions in-charge of sales and marketing Shankar Subramaniam had said last week.
Sources in FC Goa claim, that the exit of Dempo and Salgaocar, despite ISL Appeal Commission’s ‘mellowed’ outlook towards the censures and fines on the duo and the club, would boost Deltin Group’s chances of becoming a major co-owner of FC Goa.
Videocon’s Venugopal Dhoot and Indian Test skipper Virat Kohli are the other co-owners of the ISL franchise.
While the takeover drama plays out in boardrooms in Mumbai and Goa, many like Patterson Fernandes, a college lecturer, wear resigned looks.
Irrespective of whether it’s the Dempos or the Salgaocars or the Modys who own FC Goa, the ISL genre of football, says Patterson a former footballer himself, goes only skin deep.
“ISL and FC Goa haven’t done anything great for Indian football besides getting fans to the stadium. Considering ISL has a revenue model, by now all franchises should gave had effective youth development programmes like say training academies,” he said.