He came, he saw, he scored tons of goals, he mesmerized, he entertained with a smile and he gave back a gift to Indian football – the Brasil Futebol Academia (BFA) – that might one day churn out players who’ll take India to the World Cup. Established in 2009, BFA – the brainchild of Brazilian footballers Roberto Mendes Da Silva, fondly known as Beto and Jose Ramirez Barreto, has been slowly but steadily creating waves all over the tiny state of Goa and is gradually looking to make its presence felt in other states of India too.
It all started in the summer of 2009, when Beto, who is virtually idolized in India, decided to give something back to the beautiful game in India and with the help of his good friend Barreto, decided to launch the Brasil Futebol Academia. “In Brazil, footballers have this tradition of giving back to their country or to society from the millions that they have earned through the beautiful game. I thought of giving back to India as I have played the best years of my career in this country,” said Beto, as he launched the BFA in 2009. Within a span of two years, the academy has gone from strength to strength.
After renting out a small office in Agacaim, a village known to the world for its famous Goan sausages and in footballing circles, as the hometown of the legendary Camilo Gonsalves, the BFA took shape. They struggled initially with the finances that mostly came from Beto and Barreto. Beto had even auctioned his Dempo jersey to raise funds for the academy, but once they got a head start, there was no looking back.
After a brilliant first year, where they won the GFA U-18 Second Division League and consequently gained promotion to the First Division, BFA tied up with Vasco Sports Club and Chowgule Group to take the academy to an even better position. “Under the new tie up, Chowgule provides BFA with the infrastructure like a world class gymnasium and an artificial turf for practice and even a physio while Vasco Sports Club provides the much needed cash injection to BFA that until this time was running entirely on Beto’s and Barreto’s generous pockets and a few contributions from magnanimous benefactors in Brazil,” said Maverick Vivian Martins, Manager Corporate Affairs and Communications, BFA.
In a short span of time, BFA has managed to take the entire state of Goa by storm. After starting off with U-16 and U-18 teams, the BFA now imparts training in five age group categories viz. U-12, U-14, U-16, U-18 and U-20. It is the only club in Goa and possibly in India that imparts training to so many age groups and starts at such a young age.
The Daily Routine
A normal day at the academy starts like this – after school the trainees meet at the academy headquarters in Agacaim, where they are served lunch, which consists of wholesome foods like rice, fish, and protein rich millets and soyabean. Packed food is also taken for the kids, who come directly to the Chowgule ground at Margao. After lunch, a bus leaves for the Chowgule Sports Complex, which houses a state of the art gymnasium and an artificial turf, that is also used by Colin Toal’s India juniors.
The gymnasium facilities and the artificial turf are used to train the U-16, U-18 and U-20 players, while U-14 and the U-12 kids are trained at the Agacaim grounds.
The U-16 and U-12 teams are coached by Jonathan from Nigeria, who is assisted by Naresh Virnodkar. U-14 boys are under the tutelage of Selwyn and Kanan; the U-16 boys under Seby and Rafiq, while the U-18 are coached by Derryl, arguably BFA’s most promising coach
“At the U-12 category we basically just make the kids enjoy the game and have fun while the serious coaching starts from the U-14 category onwards,” disclosed young coach Derryl D’Souza. “At 12 years of age we start working with the fundamentals or “fundamentos” as the Brazilians would call it and gradually as the age group increases we teach them how to work with the ball technically, body coordination, footwork, tactical play and awareness,” added Derryl.
The Facilities and The Coaches
Just two years into the business and BFA already looks more professional than some of the well established Goan clubs. They have impressive coaches on their roster. Rodrigo Mendes Silva, brother of Beto, has been the head coach of the Brasil Futebol Academia since 2010. Rodrigo is responsible for overseeing the technical and tactical development of BFA’s 7 to 18-year old players. This includes being responsible for the philosophy, structure and operation of the performance programme within the Academy. In addition, he oversees performances and results of all age groups and technical staff.
Derryl D’Souza is an AFC C License and AFC Project Future Coach. He was the only Indian selected to be part of the AFC Project Future Coaching Program in Malaysia. Rafiq Bepari and Seby Rodrigues are qualified AFC C license coaches, while Naresh Virnodkar, also a C License coach, was selected by the British Council and Goa Football Association (GFA) to be a part of the Hull City, Liverpool and Manchester City skill training programme for coaches. They also have a Nigerian coach, Adakole O Jonathan, an English FA certified coach, who has been the national coach of the Tibet. He has also coached the Tirupur Football Club and Bombay Gymkhana. The administrative side is impressive too, with Beto’s and Rodrigo’s wife also chipping in with administrative duties like managing the kitchen and the accounts. Their world class training facilities need no mention. No wonder they are producing some quality players. Not only were their U-18 team the Second Division champions last year but also the U-16 team reached the finals, this year. They also had two of their players representing the Goa state team in the U-16 Mir Iqbal Hussain Trophy.
Derryl also shed light on the training imparted by BFA for Futsal-football played on a basketball court, which is a virtual craze in Brazil. The BFA conducts Futsal three times a week at the Don Bosco Oratory indoor court in Panjim. Brazilian methodology is used for Futsal. Rodrigo Mendes Da Silva, who has had the privilege of playing with Kaka and Robinho during his time in Brazil, is the coach and provides the coaching material for Futsal.
“Ronaldinho, Adriano, Robinho all played Futsal first. Futsal enhances quick thinking, makes it easier to play on the big ground and makes you quick in your mind as well as with your footwork,” said Derryl when asked as to why Futsal is such a craze in Brazil.
When they are not talking football, BFA shapes the character of the budding footballers by teaching them valuable lessons in life. “Faith in God is taught first,” said Derryl, “We teach them the value of honesty, sincerity and dedication to the game. We instill in them the positive mentality – of positive thinking – no one is made to feel or have an inferiority complex. We teach them how to overcome the fear factor and how to be dedicated to the game come what may”. The young coach went on to add – “Stories of Brazilian players like Lucio, who came from poverty stricken neighborhoods to World Cup winners are told to the boys to motivate them.”
Five to seven years down the line, Derryl definitely sees a huge potential for BFA’s budding footballers. “This year our player Sahil Tavora was selected for Venky’s Rovers Tour, 5-7 years down the line I see at least one BFA player donning the India jersey”
When BFA was established, lives were changed and potential superstars were given a platform to prove themselves. Take for instance Prakash Khatri, a Nepali boy, who hopped numerous trains and landed in Goa in search of a job. As destiny would have it, this boy landed at the BFA headquaters and is now being coached there. This player dreams of becoming a footballer one day. It took the magnanimity and generosity of two Brazilian players to give thousands of kids in Goa a chance to dream big.
“Beto has done a big thing for Goan and Indian football. He has given many youngsters the opportunity to make it big in football and to dream big. All the boys look up to Beto as their role model,” said Maverick, before signing off.
There’s no denying that Beto has given Goan and Indian football a huge boost. BFA has changed lives and given kids a chance to fall asleep, dreaming about becoming a Ronaldo or a Messi. It has given the Goan Lucio’s a chance to get out of poverty and earn a living and it has perhaps given India a player, who will dodge past three defenders, do a step over, nutmeg another defender and smack the ball into the top corner.