Mumbai: The debate over the ownership of FC Goa football club is actually a revival of the old refrain of “local” versus “outsider” in Goa. Over the years the debate has added to the exclusivity of the tourist state that many perceive as the island of free spirit.
The charge by some politicians in Goa that, after the exit of co-owners Dattaraj Salgaonkar and Shrinivas Dempo from FC Goa, the club has no “locals” left in it, has echoes of similar sentiments expressed by Goan natives over a variety of issues in the past.
With the new promoter of FC Goa Jaydev Mody charged of being an “outsider” by Goa politicians, the local versus outsider narrative seems to have resurfaced.
On Thursday, FC Goa officially announced Jaydev Mody, chairman of Delta Corp that has three of the six issued offshore gaming licences in Goa, as the new promoter of the Club at a media briefing in Goa. In July, Mody bought 65% stake in FC Goa that Salgaonkar and Dempo jointly held. The remaining stake continues to be held by the Videocon Group and star cricketer Virat Kohli.
FC Goa is one of the eight teams in the Indian Super League of football, a championship that started in 2014. The ISL is co-promoted by IMG-Reliance Industries and Star India, and supported by the All India Football Association (AIFF). FC Goa was the runners-up in the ISL 2015 edition but it did not attend the award ceremony to protest the alleged misconduct by some players belonging to the winning team Chennaiyin FC. The AIFF imposed a penalty on FC Goa, which led to Salgaonkar and Dempo, who is also the vice-president of AIFF, selling their stakes in protest. Both Salgaonkar and Dempo are credited with a significant contribution towards the growth of football culture in Goa, the only state where it has the status of official sport. The issue assumed “local” versus “outsider” overtones when Mody bought the stake.
Speaking at the Goa legislative assembly on Wednesday, Congress member and former Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat demanded that the Goa government intervene in the matter to ensure that there is some Goan stake in FC Goa. “When you are using the name Goa, then Goans should have a stake. Goans will cheer the team but they will have no stake in it,” Kamat said. The former chief minister even suggested that the government refuse facilities like playgrounds to FC Goa so that the club is compelled to get a Goan stake. Goa Vikas Party’s legislator Francisco Pacheco went a step ahead and offered to buy 25% stake himself.
Goa, India’s leading mining and tourism state, has always had this native against migrant context to almost every public issue. For instance, between 2005 and 2011, when illegal mining of iron ore boomed in Goa driven by Chinese demand, an additional charge that a large number of mining companies faced from local environmental groups was that they were “outsiders” and had zeroed in on Goa only to make fast money through illegal mining. Raju Nayak, veteran journalist in Goa and editor of the Goa edition of Marathi daily Lokmat, said. “The lure of mining money brought many dubious characters to Goa who not only literally mined the state’s resources but also added impurities to the quaint and self-contented Goan culture, like corruption, crime and callousness towards surroundings. In order to repay some of the Goan debt, some of these miners invested money they had earned from mining into football teams thinking that football being an integral part of Goan culture, the locals would accept them. That did not work.” He added that the irony now is that after mining has resumed in Goa and miners are making money again, the FC Goa has lost the only Goan element, which was “locals” Salgaonkar and Dempo owning a 65% stake. “This debate between locals and outsiders is a genuine one because Goan natives have this feeling that their culture and resources are used but there are no returns. It is a very agonizing feeling,” Nayak said.
No wonder then that while formally announcing Mody as the promoter on Thursday, Sukhvinder Singh, chief executive officer of FC Goa, made it a point to say that FC Goa Club was delighted that it now had more “Goans than ever before playing in our squad for this season. We look forward to an excellent season ahead.”