The Goan state league has commenced on 9th October. The Goa Pro League will feature legacy clubs like Dempo Sports Club, Salgaocar Football Club, Vasco Sports Club, Churchill Brothers FC among the participants.
Originally called the Goan First Division, the tournament was rebranded into its current avatar in 1998 with five teams. Fast forward to 2018, the Goa Pro League will feature 12 teams in the home and away format. The tournament will span six months and the final round of fixtures will take place in March 2019.
Legacy Clubs and Youth Teams
The 12 teams in the league are a mix of legacy clubs, youth teams, and regional clubs looking to make a mark.
Here’s a brief preview of the participating teams:
1. Sporting Clube De Goa
Sporting has won three titles in the past five years (Overall: 4 titles). The holders will look to retain their crown with primarily the same squad which led them to the crown last season.
Built on the lines of Portuguese club Sporting Clube de Portugal. Sporting came into existence in 1999 when the Panjim public decided to launch a football club after their local team Cidade de Goa was disbanded.
Sporting Clube De Goa has selected the Duler Stadium, Mapusa as their home ground for the league.
2. Dempo Sports Club
The three-time I-League champions came in a second in the previous season. The Golden Eagles will look to pip their local rivals to the crown and claim their sixth title.
Formed in 1961 as Dempo Souza Football Club, the club won their erstwhile Goan Senior League title in 1972. They finally made their mark in Indian football by winning the Rovers Cup in 1975. Between as 2007/08 and 2011/12, Dempo dominated the I-League by winning the league three times.
Currently, in the I-League Second Division, Dempo will aim to get back to their glory days. Dempo SC has also chosen the Duler Stadium as their home ground.
3. Salgaocar Football Club
Salgaocar uses the state league as a platform to their U-20 players. After finishing seventh in the league last season, the Green Brigade will once again promote their youngsters to gain some professional experience.
Founded in 1956, Salgaocar dominated Indian football in 1999. They won the National League, the erstwhile Indian Super Cup, and the Durand Cup. They also won the I-League and the Federation Cup in 2010/11.
Like the other legacy teams, Salgaocar will play their home matches at the Duler Stadium.
4. Goan FC
The development side of the Indian Super League team, FC Goa, this team will consist of up-and-coming players. Goan FC impressed in their first season in the Goa Pro League. It reaped benefits as players like Princeton Rebello earned his place in the first team this season.
This year’s batch will hope to showcase their skills to impress the coaches of the senior team. FC Goa will play their home matches at the Duler Stadium.
5. Calangute Association FC
The third-placed team from the previous season will bank on their young talents to make a name for themselves this season. The club president, Alirio Lobo, has a realistic view stating that the main aim of this season is to stay in the league and survive relegation.
Calangute Association FC will play their home matches at Poriat Ground, Calangute.
6. Guardian Angel SC
Guardian Angel SC has had an incredible rise from the Third Division League to the Goa Pro League. Founded in 1972, the club gained back-to-back promotions in a span of three years. The Curchorem-based has been competing at the Goa Pro League since 2015.
After a sixth-place finish in the previous season, assistant manager/player, Nicholas Rodrigues, said that they’ll aim to better their position this year. Guardian Angel SC will play their home matches at the Rosary Ground, Navelim.
7. Churchill Brothers FC
The tag of being the only I-League team in the league may weigh heavy on the Margao-based team. After a dismal showing in 2017/18 season, the two-time I-League champion will aim to make amends with the likes of Willis Plaza joining their ranks.
Churchill Brothers have won seven state league titles in their 30-year existence, however, their title was in 2008. The Red Machines should challenge for the title this year to win some faith of their fans.
The Rosary Ground at Navelim will serve as their home ground.
8. Vasco Sports Club
The oldest registered club which is currently participating in the state league has never been relegated in its history. Founded in 1951, Vasco is aiming to revive the glory days of the team based in Vasco Da Gama. They have won the state league 6 times, but recent history has not been kind as they finished 10th in 2017/18.
Named after Brazil’s Club de Regatas Vasco da Gama, the club has a new sponsor to help push the club’s qualification to the I-League.
Vasco will play their home matches at the Duler Stadium.
9. Panjim Footballers
A nursery for Goan football, Panjim Footballers enters the second season of the state league with players in the age group of 16-20. There is a connection with their bigger neighbor Sporting Clube, as many of their youth players have featured for Panjim.
The club aims to finish higher than ninth and, more importantly, give the youngsters a chance to go toe-to-toe with the big boys. The Duler Stadium will serve as their home ground.
10. Corps of Signal
Corps of Signal side finished 8th in the previous season. However, with the other teams raising the bar, the Signals will have to up the ante to match their opponents or to even better them. The Signals will play their matches at the Corp Football Ground at Navelim.
11. FC Bardez
The name of the club had hit the headlines when it was associated with a man who is serving a 500-year jail term in Dubai.
The Bardez-based team has approached the new season by recruiting players from the Third Division League and aims to do better than sixth place. FC Bardez will play their matches at the Duler Stadium.
12. Velsao Sports and Cultural Club
The South Goa club was the earned their spot in Goa’s top tier league by winning the GFA First Division League last season. The club has undergone a bit of a revamp with a new coach and a host of new players.
The Rosary Ground at Navelim will serve as their home ground.
Restructuring Goan football
With FC Goa and Churchill Brothers SC as the only representatives of the state in the top leagues, the Goa Football Association aims to stop the decline of the Goan football. The state league is the breeding ground for Goans who vie to be recognized for their football.
The Goan football pyramid comprises of four divisions. The Goa Pro League at the top, followed by the First, Second, and Third Division. While the Goa Pro League comprises of 12 teams, there were as many as 14 teams in the GFA First Division League last season, 40 in the Second Division and the rest are in the Third Division.
The Goa Football Association also organizes various youth annual leagues ranging from the U-14, U-16, U-18 and U-20 leagues.
Not to be left behind, the GFA has equipped the officials with the referee communication system to reduce errors. Goa is the second state league to deploy this system after Bengal.
With the first round of matches already underway, it will be worth keeping an eye on the region which has produced many a footballer for India.