The 2005/06 edition of National Football League witnessed one of the biggest controversies of recent times. It was a murky mixture of politics, inept administration and personal agenda. It was a scandal that could easily have taken place in the chaotic world of Italian football. One manai??i??s ego destroyed a club team and kept Indian football on tenterhooks. Half a decade later, we take a look back to the winter of 2006 and the saga of Fransa Pax Football Club.

Backdrop

Fransa Pax, a football club from Goa had qualified as 2nd Division champion in 2004/05 season. It was a period of transition in Goan football. Traditional heavy weights like Dempo, Salgoacar and Churchill Brothers were going through a lean patch. Fransa and Sporting Clube were the new faces of Goan football.

Fransaai??i??s supreme figure was Mickky Pacheco. Pacheco, a firebrand politician was also the Agriculture Minister of Goa at that time. He never minced his words and was a controversial figure in the state. Pacheco first crossed his swords with AIFF in 2005. He protested against referee Shaji Kurian, after a match with Salgaocar. Salgaocar was awarded a dubious penalty as they won 2-1. Pacheco alleged that Shivanand Salgoacar, treasurer in AIFF had influenced this decision.

Pachecoai??i??s club finished a commendable 5th in the 2004/05 season. The seeds of discontent were already sown. When the schedule for National League 2005/06 was released, it showed Fransa Pax had to play 7 away matches out of 8 matches in the 2nd half of season. Coach Norbert Gonzalez bitterly complained against the fixture list. He commented that Fransa were punished because of Pachecoai??i??s outburst against Sivanand Salgaocar and there was a conspiracy to relegate his team.

30th January, 2006 ai??i?? All hell breaks loose

On 30th January, Fransa played Mahindra United in a home game. Mahindra had built up a star-studded team with the likes of Jose Ramirez Barreto and Yusif Yakubu. It had won the Federation Cup and was one of the favourites to win the NFL crown. Fransa took the lead in the 10th minute through Ivan Dai??i??Silva. On 19 minutes, though, Mahindra got a penalty kick which was duly converted. Another penalty four minutes from time,Ai??sealed the match as Mahindra won 2-1. Barreto converted both spot kicks. Both penalties were questionable decisions.

After the 2nd penalty Fransa players heckled referee Vikramjit Purakayastha. Mickky Pacheco chased match commissioner Enayetullah around the ground. Worse, around 2000 Fransa fans vandalized the Nehru Stadium. Fransa coach Gonzalez, along with goalkeeper Virendar Singh (incidentally, man of the match in that game) and Ivan Dai??i??Silva manhandled the referee. Zee sports cheerleading squad ai??i?? ai???Zeebra Girlsai??? had to take cover inside dressing rooms to escape from the rampaging crowd. Some officials of Goan football Federation also came under fire. Pacheco, allegedly, flexed his political muscle to lure in local goons to cause the unrest.

The situation remained tense the next day. Fearing safety, Vikramjit Purakayastha was flown to New Delhi. Measures were taken so that the next match between Sporting Clube and Mohun Bagan took place without hitches. It was time for Mickky Pacheco to join the drama. As if orchestrating the shameful incident was not enough, Pacheco threatened to withdraw his team from NFL. He wanted the Mahindra match to be cancelled while points were to be shared. He threatened that his club will not play another game as long as he received ai???justiceai??? for the Mahindra match. Under FIFA rule, it was not possible to overturn the result of a completed game.

A stand-off between Fransa and AIFF started. Mickky Pacheco was in no mood to back down. He said that he was willing to completely shut down the club if he didnai??i??t get things his way. Fransa had created 5 teams in different age levels, the future of all those teams, including the future of 30 senior team players, hung in the balance. Referring to Mohun Baganai??i??s entry in the 2nd edition of NFL, Pacheco said ai???We have qualified as champions, not entered through back-door like Bagan. If we donai??i??t get points, my team wonai??i??t enter the stadiumai???. Goan football officials were in a fix after Pachecoai??i??s stubborn stand.

Fransa Pax Make Their NFL debut against JCT in 2004-05 Season

 

Allegations flew thick and fast in Goa. Mickky Pacheco had invested Rs. 7 crore in 6 years to make Fransa Pax a competitive team. However, his club also had a reputation of not paying the players their due money. Kalyan Choube and Feroz both had complained to AIFF regarding non-payment from Fransa.

Rumours suggested that the club hadnai??i??t paid players’ salary for 5 months (in reality, it was 2 months). Some sources suggested Pacheco was no longer interested in bankrolling a football team, so he was taking an easy way out. Another theory suggested this was just a clash of egos with AIFF president Priyaranjan Dasmunshi. Earlier that season, in a Fed Cup match against Mohammedan SC, Pacheco had gotten involved in a scuffle with Suley Musah. He was not even supposed to be inside the stadium as Dasmunshi had placed a ban on him. Pacheco wanted to hit back at Dasmunshi with his threats.

Fransa Pax Drop Out From National Football League

On 3rd February, a unique incident occurred in Fransa vs Air India match. While the referee and AI players took to field, Fransa Pax didnai??i??t. Mickky Pacheco had kept his promise as Indian football witnessed a dark day. This decision put the future of NFL into doubt. New sponsors Zee Sports didnai??i??t want a team to withdraw their name, as that would decrease the number of telecasted matches. AIFF didnai??i??t want to back down, neither did Pacheco. Players like Rocky Barreto, Bello Razzaq and Surajit Roy suffered. Fransaai??i??s next 3 games were cancelled to avoid more embarrassment.

Officials from Goan clubs and AIFF held a meeting on 7th February. In that meeting, AIFF rejected all of Fransa Paxai??i??s proposals and instructed them to rejoin the league. When Mickky Pacheco remained firm on his decision, Churchill Brothers (then in 2nd division) were suggested as replacement. On 8thAi??February, Pacheco did a U-turn as he suddenly expressed desire to let his team play in NFL. The players requested him, he insisted but he had some demands regarding the Mahindra United match. Sensing Fransaai??i??s retreat, AIFF hit back. They over-ruled any demands the goan club had regarding the Mahindra game. Fransa Pax players were set to be punished because of referee assault.

The issue was untangled for a period as the team took to the field again.Ai??AIFF wanted an official letter from Fransa Pax. It had to provide an unconditional apology. If Fransa had provided a letter of apology, then NFL, in doldrums at that time, would have restarted. But Mickky Pacheco made things difficult again and his club didnai??i??t provide an unconditional apology. Instead, they wanted a replay of the Air India match.

Final Standing of 2005-06 NFL after Fransa withdrew in mid-way. (Goa stands for Sporting Clube)

 

Finally, the AIFF buckled under pressure from sponsors. They decided to agree to Fransaai??i??s demands regarding the Air India match. A replay date for that match was fixed. This time, Air India joined the party. The Airmen were adamant about the walkover they got on 3rd February. FIFA rules suggested they would get a 3-0 win. It would have been 3 invaluable points for Air India – then, in the relegation zone. They were backed by Union minister Praful Patel. He was also AIFF Vice-President at that time.

FIFAai??i??s rules were followed at the end as Air India was awarded a 3-0 win. This was the proverbial straw that broke the camelai??i??s back. On 23rd March, Mickky Pacheco announced that Fransa Pax would be dissolved as a football club. As a parting shot, he called AIFF officials ai???clownsai??? and ai???animalsai???. He said ai??i?? ai???Why should I send any f****** letter? Who are they (AIFF)? I own the club and the decision is mine.ai???

By this time, Fransa had already played 9 games of first round. So AIFF could afford to continue with a 9 team league for 2nd round.

Mickky Pacheco was later accused on numerous crimes. His misuse of political power was exposed. For over a month in 2006, he held the AIFF as well as National Football League at gun-point. He jeopardized the future of not only his players but also Indian footballai??i??s premier football tournament.

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4 Responses to “Indian Football Rewind: Fransa Pax – How Mickky Pacheco’s Ego Destroyed A Football Club”

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  1. Somesh says:

    Excellent article! I remember those days of turbulence…thanks for revisiting!

  2. Aditya Sharma says:

    And I thought people like Abramovich had too much power.. this guy actually dissolved an entire club !? Only rationale I can see to explain this is that he was probably losing money because of the club, and figured ‘what the hell, let me at least have some fun!!’

  3. redNblack_blood says:

    Good find!!