Former Dempo player and coach Mauricio Afonso expressed his apathy towards Goan footballers owing to lack of representation from the state on the national stage. There was a time when there were four clubs from Goa which is not the case now.
As a consequence, not many Goan players get the chance to play at the top level, he feels.
Asked to give his take on the development of the sport in Goa, the 58-year-old said to Goal. "Football is okay but Goan football is declining. In the sense, it is not like before in the I-League. The top teams - Salgaocar [FC], Dempo [SC], Sporting [Clube de Goa] - have backed out."
Ever since the aforementioned trio decided to pull out from the I-League in 2016, in protest to the All Indian Football Federation's (AIFF) roadmap wherein the I-League was to surrender its top tier status to Indian Super League (ISL). Churchill Brothers have been the only club from the state to partake in the I-League since while FC Goa are the Goan franchise in ISL.
"When I was coaching in the I-League with Armando (Colaco), we won (National Football League and I-League titles combined) five times. That time, the league was very good. Players were given a lot of money and now there is nothing. I feel pity (for the players). That time, players were getting lakhs - [INR] 50, 60, 70, 80 lakhs (a season)," Afonso remarked.
"When I played football, there was no money. After I finished my career (1999), suddenly salaries started rising but I am not complaining. Whatever I got, I got, but now again it has gone down."
In the recent past, FC Goa have established a good grassroots programme in Goa. Afonso added, "Players are getting good money (in the ISL). The standard of football is also improving."
Afonso is amongst the best midfielders the country has produced and played for Dempo for a good 15 years. thereafter he was part of the coaching staff at the club until he suffered a paralytic stroke in 2017 that has prevented him from actively being part of the beautiful game since.