FORCA GOA! A STADIUM ENCORE AND BEYOND! BY JOSHUA GEORGE

GIRL:“ The power of an equal playing filed” is imbibed in the Forca Goa philosophy. Since the inception of the Foundation in 2017, the initiative to engage young girls to take up the beautiful game of football has progressively grown. The aim is to build young dynamic and voal leaders through football.

BY JOSHUA GEORGE

Ever wondered what happens at a football foundation? For a while now I have been curious to know. Well, it’s not far from any other foundation and is built on the same lines as a cancer foundation, mental health foundation, etc. A football foundation brings about engagement within different sections of society through sport and discipline. This is a first-hand account of Forca Goa Foundation Senior Manager Nathaniel da Costa on grassroot development. Nathaniel is an AIFF D license coach and shares an excitement and passion for the beautiful game of football. We met up for a candid chat and he helped me understand the work that goes on behind the scenes at the Forca Goa Foundation.

THE theme of the Forca Goa Foundation is “Transforming India, one football field at a time.” Sticking by that motto, in 2018 the Forca Goa Foundation launched the biggest football league in the country for children. The objective was to bring communities together and thus cater to the overall development of football skills in every individual. These include maximum game time which helps hone skills like decision making and match awareness. More importantly the league was set up so that children could have fun.

LITTLE GAURS LEAGUE
FROM 36 teams participating in the first year the league has grown exponentially over the past three years. The 2022 edition which kickstarted earlier this month on March 7 has brought together 91 teams across four age categories — U-6, U-8, U-10 and the U-12 category which is exclusive for girls. The league has certainly brought parents to take an active interest in encouraging children to come every week and participate. Their support has been a breath of fresh air.
This is evident as this year’s edition even has a team from Mumbai, “Learn to Play Academy” that travels every week to Goa to participate. Nathaniel explains that while every kid shows great enthusiasm when on the field, it is the overwhelming support of parents that has helped the league grow. Games kick-off across three venues in Goa, namely Guirim ground in Mapusa, Rosa Arena in Vasco and Sinquetim grounds in Navelim. Matches are conducted on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays across the three zones.
THE purpose of the league is to cater to special needs of kids, help improve marginalised communities and bring more girls to play the game. According to the European school of thought for football development, by the time a child gets to 12 years, he/she should have played at least 400 competitive games for them to get to the level so much that their match awareness develops and thus, they are able to make smart decisions on the pitch.
In Goa a child of 12 years, who plays football, would have played only around 20 games and that is also limited to the fact that the child is one of the better players playing in an organised set up. This year in the Little Gaurs League, each child will play around 18 games, next year the plan is to shoot that number up to 27 so that that if a child starts at the under-6 category over the course of six years, he would have played at least around 150 competitive games.

KIDS: Grassroot development is an arduous task and requires substantial financial investment. It lays the foundation for every sport. The little Gaurs League has brought 91 teams together across different age groups. The aim is to build a competitive spirit while having fun at the same time.

FORCA GOA PROGRAMS
A FOOTBAL foundation is a common practice abroad especially with the big European clubs. English Premier League clubs like Manchester United, Chelsea, etc, have a full-fledged foundation that substantially improved lives of children from poor sections of the community, as well as raising funds for diseases like mental health, cerebral palsy, etc.
In India however, FC Goa is the only ISL club that has set up a foundation. The Forca Goa Foundation does not just believe in football development but an overall holistic development of every individual. Along with football development, the foundation also aims to use the sport as a tool for the positive development of individuals. The foundation believes football is a powerful medium for social development and inclusion. Using football, it engages with the community and also organises various workshops on sports nutrition, waste management, confidence building through sport, mental health, etc.
The foundation has also partnered with The Owl House, a non-profit organisation located in Aldona-Goa that works on a community service initiative, towards helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and thus integrate the kids with special needs into different sections of society. Weekly sessions are conducted to execute and develop a football-based curriculum that in turn helps these individuals grow through football. The curriculum encompasses sessions that helps individuals develop skills such as team work, improving their balance and coordination as well as learning to follow instructions.
Each individual’s progress is monitored and tracked. Special coaches are hired that are trained by the Special Olympics Council who help in the athletic development of these kids. The foundation’s long-term goal is to develop a curriculum that can be used by coaches, educators and organisations across the country that work with special needs groups, so that they can utilise the game to instil these valuable life-skills.
The foundation also organises a free training camp in the village of Salvador do Mundo such that anyone from the area and beyond can come and get specialised football training. Kiran Niketan, which is a school for the underprivileged located in Zuari Nagar, Sancoale is another fine example where the foundation has used its influence to impart education through various workshops and life skills.
The long-term goal of the Forca Goa foundation is to see improvement in the discipline and social skills of the children. The primary reason to conduct such educational programs is so that children can enjoy playing sports and become active. These children belong to the lowest sections of society but when they are on the pitch and are having fun, they forget their problems! It is the smile on their faces that keeps the foundation going.
The aim is to make Kiran Niketan a shining example of how the overall wellbeing of children correlates with playing sports regularly. The belief is to create awareness and encourage other schools to start sports training for primary children as well.

GIRL POWER
THE foundation also aims at giving young girls an equal opportunity to play the sport. Nathaniel has big ambitions of utilising the various programs of the foundation to help nurture football development and increase football engagement among girls. Through the foundation’s training programs and system he wants to nurture talent not just for FC Goa but the national team.
In 10 years’ time he aims to forge the foundation into a well-oiled grassroots development program that continuously supplies girl talent to the national stage. He aims to build confident, vocal and great leaders through football.
After meeting Nathaniel, I got a broader understanding of the work that goes on behind the scenes at a football foundation. The Forca Goa Foundation is setting a precedent for grassroot development and football engagement in the country. The recognition for their work has picked up since its inception in 2017, garnering sponsorship from UNESCO and even the Tata Group.
The AIFF has recognised the Little Gaurs League as one of the top 10 Golden Baby Leagues in India. While the recognition for their work gradually escalates, the foundation indeed requires more investment which has proved to be one of the many obstacles. As an ardent admirer of the game and fellow fan of FC Goa, it gives me immense joy to know that football is making a difference in the lives of kids through the Forca Goa foundation.
The passion that drives Nathaniel and his team can only see dividends in the years to come. What started as a pipe dream with big ambitions has quickly materialised into something special.
The ground work being carried out at grassroots development will make Goa a future hub for talent scouting in pursuit of excellence in football.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

37 + = 38