Sportstar Sports Conclave
Focus Goa— delving into diverse sports disciplines and exploring avenues for enhancing playing conditions
Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant addressed the gathering at Sportstar’s first Conclave in 2024 in Goa virtually. According to him, the state, otherwise known for being a major tourist destination in western India, is gradually turning into a sports hub. “Goa has been primarily known as a tourist destination, but it is set to become an epicentre of sports soon. Last year, Goa successfully hosted numerous national and international sporting events. Recently, under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Games were held in Goa, which saw more than 10,000 athletes participate across 43 disciplines. Goa also achieved its highest medal tally of 92.”
The CM thanked the Hon’ble Prime Minister for his contribution to sports. He said he shared Narendra Modi’s dream of a ‘Viksit Bharat 2047’, the Government’s vision to see India become a developed country by its 100th year of Independence.
“Modi ji’s vision of Viksit Bharat 2047 will be inclusive of all. It is a part of Fit India, Skill India and Inclusive India. The role of sports in working towards the vision should also be discussed today (at the Conclave). Goa should also come to be known as a sports destination. We are known for hosting the IFFI International Film Festival, but we must keep in mind that the state has also successfully hosted the Purple Festival, the WTT (Contender) event, and world beach volleyball. The government is also pushing for sports tourism, adventure tourism, and spiritual tourism. To establish the skills for these, we are also planning to have a sports university here in the future.”
Goa’s Tourism Minister: Integrating Sports for Multifaceted Development of State
The Goa government will promote sports tourism in the coastal State by expanding its vision, Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte said. “We never spoke about sports tourism earlier. Sports was one department, tourism was another, technology was another department,” Khaunte said.
“Goa is a preferred destination for your holidays. You come here to have a pleasant stay. When our government came in, we started talking about opportunities again. We are looking to go beyond beaches; we are using the hashtag #Goabeyondbeaches. It is our responsibility to relook at what we have been doing as states. Tourism is the chief economic driver for Goa, contributing approximately 16.43 per cent of the GDP and creating 30–35% of direct and indirect employment. This economical vertical can’t be monotonous.
“COVID times made people think differently. People switched to working from home. Goa started being
positioned as a sports tourism destination. The state has actively promoted a #Vacationgoa campaign to redefine its identity by leveraging technology. We said, ‘Let people come to Goa and start working. Today, digital nomads have found their space in Goa. This innovative strategy, encompassing the four ‘S’s of sun, sand, sea, and software, has evolved further with the addition of the fifth ‘S’: sports. By incorporating sports into our narrative, we are not only providing equal opportunities to the youth but also contributing to the multifaceted development of Goa.”
Politics must be kept aside from sport, says state Sports Minister Govind Gaude Govind Gaude, the Hon’ble Sports Minister of Goa, delivered the keynote address.
He said he prides himself on how the state managed to pull off a successful National Games in 2023. “To host the 37th National Games was a dream for every Goan. Every national athlete was looking forward to participating in Goa. We had sleepless nights ahead of the competition. There needs to be meticulous planning to organise an event like this. We had given our best to deliver the best hospitality to our players. And they were all happy — even players who have represented India in multi-discipline events like the Asian Games.”
Although the competition to get to the top has become tighter with each passing day, Gaude believes sports are blessed with better infrastructure nowadays. He said, “We have to tackle every difficulty. If you go 30-40 years back in time, there was no proper infrastructure in the country, but India was shining across the globe.”
Infighting within sporting federations, says Gaude, often hampers the growth of fresh talent. He said, “There are a lot of politics in associations and federations. The news media must help out here. In every federation, there is a quarrel. We are spoiling the lives of the athletes by doing these.”
The selection of athletes should be unbiased and solely based on merit, Gaude stressed. “Let’s keep politics aside. We must come together to help sports grow. I have never asked associations to favour anybody. Selection has to happen on the basis of merit. We are giving the best services to our Goans. The government organisations and clubs need to work together.”
During the event, Pearl Fernandes, a promising footballer, was named the Emerging Hero, while Levino Dias, a revered Goan football coach, was named the Sportstar Hero Unsung Champion.
The lack of representation of Goan players in India’s age-group-level teams is a cause for concern and a testament to the state’s dwindling stocks in the sport, Pradhyum Reddy, CEO of Dempo SC, said during a panel discussion at the Sportstar Sports Conclave. “The number of clubs in the top tiers has declined. The absolute numbers in terms of players playing on the national team are around the same. The number of minutes played by players from Goa on the national teams is relatively constant. Just in the last World Cup campaign, it has dropped. We just have one player consistently playing minutes. Goa has very little to no representation at the Under-23, Under-20, Under-19, and Under-17 levels of the national team. The knock-on effect of that is seen 10 years down the line,” Reddy said.
Goa Football Association president Caitano Fernandes believes the leadership’s lack of vision in the last 10 years has played a part in the sport’s decline in the State. “At the national level, we presently have three clubs. From 2005 to 2015, in India, we had around 300 players playing for the Indian team and the I-league. Today, we have three clubs and we have around, altogether, at the international level in the Indian team, 20 players. In the last 10 years, football in Goa hasn’t been that popular because of a lack of vision of the leadership. Since we have taken over, we have made sure that our grassroots level is very strong.
My dream for Goa is that we should have at least 400 to 500 players playing at the international level,” he said. Former India goalkeeper and captain Brahmanand Sankhwalkar said that this left players with few options after graduating from age-group football.
“Plenty of football is being played here; in schools, age-group tournaments are going on. But they will only go to a certain level. Earlier, there were many clubs. That platform is missing. Except Churchill Brothers in the I-league and FC Goa in the ISL, where will the rest of the players go?” he said.
Indian Super League (ISL) club FC Goa’s head coach, Manolo Marquez, said that to take Indian football forward, the country needs to appoint the best coaches in academies.
“The structure of FC Goa is better compared to Hyderabad FC (his former franchise). But I have the feeling, in a lot of countries, that we are losing some important parts because we are only speaking of development. We have to improve at the grassroots. The money is in the highest category. But the best coaches have to be in the academies. This is the moment when the kid has to start learning football. There is a process in some countries. Our assistant coach, Gourmangi Singh, started to play football at 14 or 15, which is incredible. Development is only a word. What is important is how it is done,” Marquez opined.
The session was moderated by Sportstar senior reporter Aashin Prasad.
Former India fast bowler Ashish Nehra expressed his regret over not playing enough Test cricket during his 18-year-long international career due to persistent injury issues. “I love Test cricket and I still regret that I didn’t play enough Test cricket because of injuries,” he said. Though Nehra made his international debut with Test cricket in 1999, he only featured in 17 matches in the longest format and played his final Test in 2004.
On the relevance and health of the five-day format in the international calendar, the 44-year-old said that the survival of Test cricket will depend on smart scheduling of ICC’S Future Tours Programme (FTP), while also making a case for the hosting of Test matches in traditional centres such as Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai for increased viewership.
While placing Test cricket on a hallowed pedestal, Nehra also credited the Indian Premier League (IPL) for unearthing talent that would have otherwise gone unnoticed on the domestic circuit.
“Earlier, when there was no IPL, so many people took so many wickets and scored so many runs in First-class cricket, but they never even played an India ‘A’ game. Now, even 17 and 18-year-old fast bowlers can be spotted even if they haven’t played domestic cricket.
Now, when there is a talent, it will come forward,” he explained.
On India’s ICC title drought, Nehra, who was part of the 2011 World Cup-winning squad, said that teams shouldn’t be judged solely based on the number of ICC trophies they win.
“We can’t be desperate about winning ICC trophies. We have to be patient and the way the team has been playing in the last few years, I don’t think an ICC trophy is very far away. We shouldn’t judge a team based on how many ICC trophies it wins because there is so much other cricket also happening.”
Nehra, head coach of IPL 2022 winner Gujarat Titans, said he was a firm believer in coaching off the field and beyond the technicalities of the game.
“On the field, when there is practice, you talk about technique and all. I firmly believe that you can teach them off the field. You can discuss life, and I always try and give them suggestions so that they don’t make the mistakes I did,” he said.
Nehra, born in Delhi, revealed that his wife was the primary reason for his move to Goa seven years ago. “My wife brought me to Goa. I am not a Delhi kind of person, and my wife also grew up outside India. So, after we had kids, we wanted to live in a quieter place with less traffic. She was keen on living in a place that is less hectic and has less pollution,” he explained.
Though Nehra admitted he didn’t keep in touch with local cricket in the State, he contended that the lack of proper infrastructure shouldn’t be an excuse for lagging. “You have to have that desire and you will find a way,” he said.