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The History

It took two men, with a passion for football, to start an ‘Orange Revolution’ in Goa. In the summer of 1999, when Cidade de Goa (named after one of Goa’s earliest hotels) disbanded its team, Peter Vaz and Edgar Afonso, two young entrepreneurs, with an unrelenting passion for football got together and took over the club and rechristened it Sporting Clube de Goa. It marked the arrival of one of Goa’s most loved clubs, that took the entire nation by storm, knocking on the doors of every trophy they competed for. That they could have added many more trophies to their cabinet is a different story but Sporting Clube de Goa made their intentions clear. Named after the famous Portuguese Club –  Sporting Clube de Portugal (Sporting Lisbon) and having the similar Green Lion as its logo, Peter Vaz and Edgar Afonso took charge of leading Sporting to glory in India. Though they didn’t have the cash to splurge like the Dempos or the Salgaocars, they had enough to get a team with a blend of youth and experience, thanks to the finances, mostly from Peter Vaz’s booming construction business.  

Sporting Clube De Goa: Pride of Goa!

The Glory Days

The journey began in 2000, when they got promoted to the Goa Professional League. They were then sponsored by Haywards – a beer brand, which gave them additional financial strength. Clifford Chukwuma – formerly a player with them – was entrusted with the job of taking Sporting up the football ladder in India. After a creditable 4th place finish in its first season in the Goa Professional League, Sporting strengthened their position in the following years by notching up third position twice in succession in 2002-03 and 2003-04. But it was the year 2004-05 that really started the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Goa and made the entire nation stand up and take notice. That year they finished runners-up in the Goa Professional League, but they stole everyone’s heart with their brave and gutsy performance in the I-League (NFL), finishing runners-up to Dempo. The point to be noted here is that SCG heartbreakingly lost the League on the final day of the season. Needing a win on the final day against Mahindra United, to win the league, the Flaming Oranje, as they are popularly called, lost 1-3 in front of a huge Fatorda crowd, thereby handing the title to Dempo Sports Club. But what made that season special for Sporting and their fans was that it was only their second season in the League and they were in contention for the title till the final day. Add to that they played a sizeable number of matches that season without some of their key players, after the bus they were travelling in, met with a serious accident on its way to Kolkata. The way they battled all odds and came strikingly close to the title made them much loved and won them many fans. It was no surprise as to who the fans rooted for at every Sporting game. Dudu Omagbhemi and Chidi Edeh formed a deadly combination up front that decimated every defence that came in their way. That year Dudu became the highest scorer in the NFL with 21 goals to his credit. However, that was not enough to give Sporting the title. Despite missing out on the title, the quest for excellence gave Sporting the mentality to win every game they play and compete in every tournament they participated. That year made other teams stand up and take notice of them and they eventually became genuine title contenders from there on.  

However, one tag that got attached to them in due course was that of being ‘perennial chokers’. Their charismatic coach Clifford Chukwuma, led them to the finish line at almost every tournament but when they needed just a push to go over the line, they invariably developed a cold feet and lost out. The Federation Cup in 2005 played in Goa was another example of how they choked when it mattered the most. They played brilliantly to reach the final but lost to Mahindra, yet again, in front of their home crowd, after a goal from Jose Barreto in the stoppage time of extra time.  They were dealt with a blow in 2006-07 when their inspirational goal scorer Dudu left for foreign shores, where he would eventually represent Warsaw Krakow in the prestigious UEFA Champions League. Chidi too left and suddenly they were without their two most potent goal scorers. Their absence showed in Sporting’s performance in the following two years, where they finished a disappointing 6th and 7th in the National League. But then again in 2008-09 they were in contention for the title until the final month of the season but a string of poor results cost them dearly and they had to settle for third place.  

Sporting's triumphant U-19 team

The Unfortunate Slide

The following year was a disaster for them, as they produced insipid performances one after another, leading to their relegation last year. They eventually were demoted just by a point but the fact that they were fighting relegation the entire season, bears testimony to the fact that they had a disastrous season. Sporting replaced as many as three coaches that year which didn’t help their cause either. Too many foreign players were tried and none of them were given a decent run in the team and this too affected their performance. After the departure of Clifford, Roy Barreto- a Portuguese came in. He made way for Vishwas Gaonkar, but he too couldn’t stem the rot and they eventually faced the drop to the second division. Their prayer for retention in the League after Mahindra United’s disbandment wasn’t heard by the AIFF honcho’s and their fate was sealed. 

Sporting will once again rely on their youngsters

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The Future

Moving over to 2010-11 and Sporting looks to be completely revamped. Their stars have left and except for Wilton Gomes, Joseph Pereira,  Matthew Gonsalves, Bibiano Fernandes and goalkeeper Felix De Souza – who were a part of their glory days in 2004-05, the entire squad has a new look. The diminutive Alex Alvares has been entrusted with the job of getting them back to the I-League – a place where they certainly belong. This year has been a mixed bag for them. They are still mathematically in with a chance of winning this year’s Goa Pro League – where they have a game to go against Churchill Brothers. They had a disastrous outing in the Federation Cup, where they failed to qualify for the final round. But then victory in the Abhishek Kadam Memorial tournament in Pune, where they beat Shillong Lajong FC 4-0 in the final, would have surely given them the confidence, specially when they will play Shillong Lajong for a place in next years league.

The squad has plenty of young blood mostly from the team that won the U-19 I-League last year, beating East Bengal in the final. Their U-19 winning captain Mackroy Peixoto finds a place in the squad. Sporting has tried plenty of foreigners this season. Emmanuel Akwuegbu signed with them in the beginning of the season but then suffered a long term injury and was subsequently deregistered. They also tried Australian Joshua Maguire, who played a couple of games for them in The Goa Professioanl League and even scored a few goals, but run-ins with the team management forced the Sporting bosses to pack him off.

Sporting's rising star Adil Khan in action in the Kadam Memorial tournament final against Shillong Lajong FC

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Their current foreign players include Guinean Keita Boubacar – a defender, the versatile Daniel Bedemi, who played a stellar role for Shillong Lajong last season and Angolan striker Aldon Maquemba, who shone in the Kadam football tournament and looks to be an exciting prospect. They have completed their foreign quota with the signing of Japanese midfielder Yu Hoshide, who was the first Japanese to ply his trade in Trinidad and Tobago.

Sporting Clube’s first real test comes on the 26th of April, when they face Bhaichung Bhutia’s United Sikkim. Following which, they face fellow Goans  – Vasco Sports Club, on 29th before taking on the first of Shillong’s three representatives – Arhima Club on the 4th of May. Their next three games could be all blockbusters – Mohammedan Sporting, Shillong Lajong and Royal Wahingdoh. These three games could decide Sporting’s fate specially the game against Shillong Lajong, with whom they don’t share a very good relationship after last years ‘pitch watering’ controversy. Carlton Chapman managed Royal Wahingdoh lost to Sporting, 3-0 in a friendly in Goa earlier this year, but at home, the club from Shillong will be a tough nut to crack. Mohammedan Sporting too will not be an easy opposition and Sporting definitely have their task cut out

Coach Alex Alvares is definitely under pressure to deliver a place among in India’s elite, but he knows its going to be a war in Shillong. The ground conditions at Shillong – which Sporting had earlier protested through a letter to the AIFF, could also be their undoing. But Alex prefers to keep it simple – “The players have to adjust to any circumstances to get ahead; it is a battlefield out there”. Speaking on the hostile supporters that Sporting are likely to encounter Alex said, “I have informed the players to think of the away supporters as our own fans and they should psych themselves up by rehearsing mentally.

Sporting Clube De Goa’s president Peter Vaz has left no stone unturned in ensuring that the players are in the best frame of mind. He put up the players for a week in a hotel to ensure they bond well with each other ahead of their big test. He even hired the services of a German Sports psychologist  – Dr. Caren Dihel –  to toughen his players mentally. Sporting have prepared for this test like never before. But preparation can only take you to probably a metre from the finish line. After that its faith, prayer and belief that will take you beyond it. Can Sporting do it for the sake of their Flaming Oranje faithful? Or will they choke yet again? Your guess is as good as ours!