ENTERING A TRADITIONAL GROUND at Varca in South Goa, under the watchful eyes of Coach Albert Fernandes, a football training session is underway on a bright morning. The players look focused on the technical aspects laid down by the coach and try to better themselves in every move.
When you hear the name Varca and mention football, you know it has to be the Churchill Brothers SC, a club that started under the name Varca Club in 1988. The Churchill Brothers SC are back in the spotlight this year after a two year absence from the I-league. With 3 top division clubs from Goa pulling out of the I-League in tandem, Churchill are the sole representatives of Goa, a major footballing state.
After the early morning practice, TFG caught up with their captain Keenan Almeida for a chat on how things are falling in place in the run up to the I-League. Keenan emphasised on a player's physicality that needs to be worked on rather the mental preparation,
"More than being mentally prepared, it's important to be physically prepared. As professional players, we know the mental aspect of the game. With coaches around who have been into football for long, they know how to prepare us well physically"
For a player, he stressed that the Coaches are the best judges of a player's fitness and potential to lead up a fit squad to field, therefore he lay trust in the Coach to get players match-ready.
The decision to include Churchill Brothers into the I-League arrived late, leaving little time for Coaches and players to get together for practice. Asked about his thoughts on the short time for preparing for the season Keenan was of the view that a player has some unstated responsibilities that must be undertaken without being told to.
"Actually most of the players are in touch with regular football. Only those involved in the Indian Super League will get lesser time to prepare. There are others who are playing in the Goa Professional League who have regular practices and training"
When there isn't any football being played, the onus of keeping oneself fit lies with the player himself, shared the former Under-23 national team player.
"As professional players, we need to keep our self fit by regular gym sessions or a jog on the beach. The only thing to be done is gelling with new players. But we have about a week or so that is not a matter of concern. If the spirit of the team is good, everything we will be in place"
Churchill Brothers are the only Goan club in the I-league, and the expectations from fans will be high. Keenan said he was aware of the hopes pinned on them as a leader of the club and torch bearer for the fellow Goan fans. He vowed to his best and not disappoint the young and old who will be in the ground support the team,
"Yes a lot of hopes would be there from us from the supporters being the only Goan team as unfortunately other three teams are not part of this season. By doing our best we hope to fulfill those expectations"
We asked Keenan what were his expectations from the rather unclear phase of Indian top order football next year when I-League and Indian Super League merge. He said he hopes that the final decision taken by the authorities results in boosting the ever-growing football in the country even further.
"I am not really sure what to expect as a player but yes, I can only hope that whatever decision is arrived at is for the betterment and development of Indian football and it benefits the sport in the country"
From a player's point of view, if he was expecting rigorous practice sessions or leave it to the Coaches to make strategic plans for the upcoming season, Keenan said he would follow the instructions given to him and take one game at a time.
"About training, team coaches know it all. The trust is mutual, players and coaches trust each other alike. As far as matches are concerned, we will be taking one match at a time and not thinking too far ahead. We will act according to situations and will go for a good season"
Keenan Almeida, in his first season as an I-League team captain, under the wishful eyes of the Goan fans will hope to make it big for Churchill Brothers Sports Club after their return to the top flight of Indian football.