"Special to play before own crowd"
Colour! Masks! People! Fun!Even as the tableaus of the Goa Carnival parade was passing by, Mehtab Hossain and Arnab Mondal, all in awe, knew whom to turn to. They turned to Clifford Miranda, the local boy.
Clifford, with his curling locks knotted at the back, was quick to explain. Lalrindika Ralte, Aiborlang Khongjee, Sandesh Jhingan also huddled up to hear from 'Cliffy-bhai.' And soon, Lenny Rodrigues, Francis Fernandes, Victorino Fernandes and Denzil Franco joined in to explain more.
From a distance you watch. The International Friendly against Bangladesh stay a couple of days away
Next day morning, with the streets yet to recover from the Carnival hangover, Clifford Miranda turns on the morning newspapers.
"Playing for the National Team is always an achievement. But this match is special," he says, even as he turns to Victorino. The latter nods.
"Getting a chance to play where you have grown up is something else. I have played most of my Football at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda and have even been a part of many a successful Dempo SC squad. But you don't get to play an International Friendly every day," he continues.
"My wife is expecting and even she will be watching from the Stands. Nothing can be more special," he smiles. You agree.
"I am aware of the passion of the Goan Fans. I would expect everyone to throng the Stadium just as they backed the Goa-India side for the Lusofonia Games. Support us in the same manner you have done all these years. We need your support," Clifford urges to the fans.
"Soglleam thaim magtam matchik ieupak anik amkam support korpak," (I urge everyone to come over for the match and support us).
This is not another match for me. This is something else which I won't ever forget," Denzil echoes.
"This is the first time I may get to play for the National team in Goa. The possibility of playing representing my Country on my home ground makes me excited. Come on Goa, make some noise for us. Hope to see the Stadium full of our fans," he adds.
"Unfortunately my dad won't be there in the Stands. He passed away last month. I will miss him. Everytime I played in Goa, he used to be in the Gallery. I knew where he used to sit. Whenever I have played for my Country, he always watched me on Television. But I know, he will be watching me from above," he pauses.
There's silence in the room. "But my other Family members would be coming and cheering. We need a good crowd," Denzil who stays in Saligao near the Calungute Beach, quips.
Denzil's roommate Lenny Rodrigues who was adjudged the 'Best Midfielder of I-League' expects the noise from the stands would make the Team feel more at Home.
"I need to thank The Almighty for allotting this match to Goa. No doubt it's a different feeling. All my friends, relatives have been calling me. They would all be cheering from the Stands. I expect a Full House at the Fatorda Stadium. It's time to back your National Team," Lenny opines. "The Team needs your support and love," Lenny urges to the fans.
"My family would be coming over and also all the people from the neighbourhood," informs Francis Fernandes. "All throughout the Year, I play lot of Club matches in Goa. But an International Friendly doesn't happen every week. Having the possibility of wearing the National Jersey in front of your near and dear ones is a sentiment which cannot be expressed," Francis explains. "It's an opportunity to show to all in front of them what the Team is capable of."
"More than me my family has been waiting for this match. It was a relief when my name was in the squad for the International Friendly. Being a part of the squad in front of my home crowd means a lot to me. This is what all fans wait for, the National Team playing in front of their eyes," Victorino quipped.
At lunch, the local lads gather together with the other Players and speak in their local dialect. The teammates try to gauge what they discuss.
In chorus, they say it loud: "Soglleam thaim magtam matchik ieupak anik amkam support korpak." (We urge everyone to come over for the match and support us).
(Posted on 03-03-2014)