“The clubs want me to be president. I must be elected unopposed.” But a stunned Churchill got only rebuttals. “Where is your brother?” “Where is the Rs 50,000 he promised?” “What will you promise us this time?” The political playing field suddenly turned a mine field. “What have you done for football?” The meeting ended with some club reps walking out. Churchill realized he had been red carded. He decided not to contest despite his great ambition to become president.

December 27, 2007

Proxy Football Politics 

There is an obnoxious side to Goan football, planet Earth’s most popular sport. This story begins with Churchill Alemao wanting to be GFA president for the term 2010-14. One obstacle he faced was the fact that his brother Joaquim Alemao was the sitting president. How? I’ll explain that in good time. Although Salcette was the largest voting constituency, he also needed the backing of football clubs in Bardez, Ilhas and Mormugao, to get elected unopposed. Because, that is how the man likes to do it, every time.

Ironically, real elections to the GFA had resumed in 2007 after a long lull when Churchill’s brother Joaquim won, but his panel didn’t. Earlier, the AIFF secretary, Alberto Colaco merely grouped together Joaquim Alemao, Shivanand Salgaocar, and Srinivas Dempo, arrogating to himself the right to pick the GFA president. In other words they selected, never elected, their surrogate. Result: there was never an election since Savio Messias challenged Vilas Sardessai in 1992, and the thumb rule applied to the yes-men in the GFA’s committee as well.

 Leaky legacy

But J. Alemao was leaving behind a weak legacy that his brother Churchill could not afford to inherit. Goa’s soccer clubs, particularly from Bardez were unrelenting over his broken promise to give each club Rs 50,000, which they claimed he had promised in return for votes in 2007. And that is because J. Alemao, the Urban Development minister, failed to get the Sports Ministry portfolio which lords it over the Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) which was supposed to bankroll his blatant buyoff.

Vengeance is mine

The clubs intended to hit back. They picked their moment when Churchill Alemao held a meeting of Bardez clubs at the Green Park hotel (near the Mapusa bypass road) in August. There are 40-odd Bardez clubs (42, I think). Typically, Churchill brought along some club representatives (Dionisio Sardinha, John Dias, Lavino Rebello among them) from Salcette and declared in his peerless style that he would only file his nomination if all the clubs in Goa agreed to elect him unopposed. “The clubs want me to be president. I must be elected unopposed.”

But a stunned Churchill got only rebuttals. “Where is your brother?” “Where is the Rs 50,000 he promised?” “What will you promise us this time?” The political playing field suddenly turned a mine field. “What have you done for football?” “Why are you PWD minister and not Sports minister?” “What happened to the promised floodlighting at the Nehru stadium, Fatorda?” “Why hasn’t Panjim got a ground yet?” The meeting ended with some club representatives walking out in protest. Churchill Alemao realized he had been shown the red card. He decided not to contest despite his great ambition to become president.

The Fatorda stadium lighting project valued at nearly Rs 6,00,00,000 is stuck with Churchill Alemao, as Public Works Department minister. Specialists in the business say it can be done for less than one-sixth of that amount. The Duler (Mapusa) stadium floodlight project officially promoted by J. Alemao has been intentionally stalled by him (for obvious reasons) as Urban Planning minister (the project is to be implemented by the Mapusa Municipality which is under that ministry).

Dark horse

This is when the Colaco group panicked and pushed forward the candidature of Srinivas Dempo, always reluctant to be president, and content with playing a supporting role. With Colaco due to retire on September 30, 2010 as AIFF’s Delhi-based paid general secretary, he would have to be benched on his return to Goa. But he could be made the new GFA general secretary. With the incumbent, Savio Messias, due to retire on October 25, 2010, the post was being modified from that of honorary to professional. It was to be a paid job and Colaco’s AIFF experience was the end result of a well-thought out tactical plan.

 The new term is for 2010-2014. It was a shoe-in-a- winner all the way, because Colaco intended to be the force behind Dempo, the reluctant GFA office bearer. Dempo was elected, or rather, selected member of the GFA twice, was VP for four years, but the only GFA meeting he ever attended was on September 15, 2010. Rumours had it that he and four other GFA members including J. Alemao would be disqualified for failing to attend four consecutive executive committee meetings. Under ordinary circumstances they ought to have been disqualified a long time ago. The issue was raised in fact at the last general body but J. Alemao’s lame apology was that his ministerial and political duties took preference over GFA.

Possession game

Except for 2007 when real elections were held, the group marshalled by Colaco has always kept possession of the ball so to speak – to the extent of forming a panel to contest. This is in direct conflict with the GFA constitution which says a president must be elected in his individual capacity. Confident that J. Alemao would contest again, Messias filed his nomination papers. So did Peter Vaz.

In 2007 J. Alemao asked Vaz to support his candidature because the president’s post as per convention is rotated between Goa’s four big clubs. The contest suddenly got rougher. Messias has had turf battles with both Colaco and J. Alemao but not with Vaz. But J. Alemao’s broken promise was like an own goal, it eliminated both brothers from the contest. Messias, knew he couldn’t win and would also only damage Vaz’ chances. So, they are believed to have come to an understanding.

Messias would withdraw his nomination, but as he would be left with nothing, he filed his papers for the post of member, Mormugao zone. The zone had three candidates for three posts available. It was game on here too.

At this point Churchill Alemao began scheming as only he can; wary of how clubs voted in 2007 when J. Alemao was voted in, but not his panel. The buzz in the clubs was that he ordered clubs loyal to him to carry their mobiles in and photograph their ticked ballot papers as proof. I am not making this up but the villain in the piece all along was Chief Minister Digambar Kamat(not clear how) who kept wheedling with the key players in government like a good captain would.

Hardly Shanti

Shanti Almeida is a woman you don’t want to mess with despite her name. Ask Vishwajit Rane. This resident of Sagar Housing Colony and central government employee mind you, is opposing his illegal encroachment on government land he claims is his. His firm is called Meridien Real Estate. What you don’t know is the bungalow he is expanding was once owned by a Mapusa lad who owed Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate money.

Now, borrowing from Monserrate involves the principal amount plus heavily accruing interest equals you lose your land because his recovery methods are a bit like Citibank’s. He takes your keys and you take a hike. Next Monserrate sells to Rane the single level bungalow that he turns into an emblematic Dona Paula monstrosity. I digress.

Rane, almost a minister without portfolio, ensures the Talathi under Dy. Collector Agnel Fernandes hides Shanti’s complaint file in a steel cupboard despite the fact he was ordered to make a site inspection on February 2, 2007. The only ‘official’ who made an appearance there for the investigation was Jennifer Monserrate (wife of the Taleigao MLA), who had the temerity to ask Shanti, “Now what do you want?” Was it money she hinted at? Rane also got three water connections from his single water meter and that is why he never hires water tankers.