This series explores stories of individual players, teams, coaches, and their exciting and passionate journey of football, seen through the lens of the Forca Goa Foundation at the Little Gaurs League. 

Tiny Goals Academy

Tiny Goals Academy was started in Cansaulim by Coach Cady Furtado in the year 2019 with the aim of having training sessions for kids in and around Cansaulim. The academy kicked off with a free camp during the Diwali vacation to try and build the interest of the community in football. The main goal was to focus on developing grassroots football in the area by training kids under the age of 12 years. The camp was free of cost to all children and they registered around 60 kids. Children were provided with daily refreshments and were awarded certificates at the end of the camp.

In January 2020, Tiny Goals Academy registered teams for the Little Gaurs League in Vasco. Their training had had such an impact on the students that most of them were eager to play again and compete. They were able to field a team in each of the 4 age categories, thus, giving a chance to all the students they trained in their camp. Coach Cady Furtado says he is happy that the kids got a chance to showcase their talents and play regularly. Each match was a learning experience irrespective of whether they won or lost.

The Academy did itself proud by deservedly winning 2 trophies. Their U12 girls’ team ranked 1st in the league while the U8 team ranked 2nd in their league. Joywin Silva was the joint top scorer in the U10 category while Vinoshka Fernandes boosted her team’s results by being the top scorer in the U12 category scoring 6 goals in 4 matches. Cady was happy with the success and hopes to see the children play for big clubs in the future. While he has received suggestions to register the academy as a club, currently he just wants to continue with their training camps and return to the Little Gaurs League once we all overcome the Covid-19 pandemic.

Chris Nunes

Chris Nunes started playing football when he was 5. The love and passion for this game came from his father and elder brother who also love playing football. Chris likes to score goals and dreams of becoming a professional football player. We believe he is going to achieve his future dreams as he practices football on a daily basis for 2 hours.

Chris played for the Sharada Mandir U8 team in Little Gaurs League 19-20 season. He was the top scorer for his team. Chris played outstanding football and showed improvement in every game he played; making him grab the Best Player award in the U8 category. His parents were happy with the way he played in the league and glad that he got a chance to participate in a professionally organized tournament at such a young age. 

“Chris understands the importance of receiving an individual award and it means that he is an exceptional player and one of the best in his team”, says his mom. His performance in the league was further recognised as he was selected for the Centres of Excellence

We hope to see more of this future star in the years to come!

Soham Mane

Soham Mane is an upcoming young footballer who wowed us with his talent during the Little Gaurs League. Soham’s dream is to play for the national team someday. He also wants to play for an international team in the future and meet his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo. According to his mom, this young star wants his idol to see him play and will not be satisfied unless Ronaldo himself appreciates his game.

Soham feels that there is always room for improvement when it comes to football, he watches YouTube videos of footballers to know about their diet, their workout regime, and their football techniques.

Soham was 2 years old when he saw some boys playing on the street and learned about football. He soon started to play with his neighbours and by the age of 5, his parents had enrolled him at the Youth Futsal Academy (YFA). Soham is always thinking of how to get better in football and spends almost 3 hours every day, working on improving himself. His parents are delighted with the way he has worked on his skills and feel he is on his way to becoming a great player.

When he took part in the Little Gaurs League for the YFA U8 team, his parents were happy to see him experience regular competitions against so many teams. Soham showcased great skills in the league and scored 12 goals in 10 matches. Not only did he help his team top the league table with 27 points, but he also received the Best Player Award in the U8 category for his performance.

If he’s shown this much dedication to the game when he’s 7 years – imagine the heights he’ll reach when he will be 20! We are glad to be a small part of this young talent’s journey.

After months of exciting matches and intense competition, the Little Gaurs League marked the end of a great season earlier this month. An initiative of the Forca Goa Foundation, the league follows the guidelines provided by AIFF in the Golden Baby League handbook, to provide kids with a platform where they can play and compete on a professional level.

This year, the league saw a tremendous increase in participation with 109 teams registering as compared to 36 last year –  encouraging signs for the development of grassroots football in Goa. While the North (Sangolda) and South (Nagmodem) zones had 40 and 42 teams respectively, the League’s newest zone, Vasco (Mount Litera) showed great enthusiasm in its first year with 27 teams around the venue.

Apart from increasing the number of zones to three, this season also had 2 additional age groups participating. Separate leagues were conducted for 4 age categories (U6, U8, U10, U12) in each of the zones.While U6, U8, U10 were mixed gender leagues, the U12 age category was exclusively for girls in a bid to increase opportunities for girls to play football. There were 957 participants, who played more than 500 matches and scored 1690 goals altogether! 

The winners of the league were announced in award ceremonies held in each zone. The awards were given out for winners, 1st runner up and 2nd runner up for each of the age categories. Individual awards were given to top scorers, most promising players and best players. The children received the prizes from respected personalities of Goa football. At the Sangolda ground, the event was graced by the presence of Mr. Bibiano Fernandes, coach of the U16 Indian national team; Sahil Tavora, former FC Goa player and Hyderabad FC player; Jonathan Cardozo, FC Goa U18 player; and Denzil Franco, former FC Goa player.

The Nagmodem ground saw Former Sports Minister of Goa, Avertano Furtado; FC Goa Development team player Aaron D’Silva; and former India International, Mrs. Domiana Gomindes as chief guests. At the Mount Litera ground in Vasco, the Foundation had AIFF Goa coordinator, Genevieve Colaco; Francisco Nunes, Executive Committee member GFA; and Umer Mutawalli, AFC A-license coach. 

“An awesome job done by Forca Goa Foundation. This is the first grassroots league that is not taking place at just the school level. Here, the kids are getting opportunities to play at an all Goa level. Playing in the league also motivates kids to take part in ISL someday.” – Denzil Franco (Former India International, ISL winner with ATK, Former FC Goa player)

To educate parents of the Little Gaurs, the Foundation organised nutrition workshops. Here, parents were explained about the importance of proper nutrition for children who play regularly and took back many tips from our nutritionists. To see these tips for yourselves, check out our blog on the nutrition workshop here.

Keeping up with tradition, we had parents matches at the end of the league. Exhibition matches were played by moms and dads of the participants before the awards ceremony. The children enjoyed watching their parents take to the field for a change while they cheered from the sidelines.

The energetic and passionate response from the children, parents and coaches empowers the Foundation to constantly improve grassroots football in Goa. The Little Gaurs League will be back next year – bigger and better, giving children the opportunity to #GrowWithTheGame!

In a world bombarded by variety, it is easy to swap nutrition for convenience. The Força Goa Foundation recently gave parents of the children participating in the Little Gaurs League a practical insight into boosting their young athletes’ energy through a wholesome diet.

Nutritionist Wellishia D Sa broke down the components of a healthy diet, and offered tips on incorporating ‘unappetising’ superfoods into delicious treats for growing children as parents listened with rapt attention in workshops organized in North and South Goa. Post the workshop for parents, the foundation is also organising workshops for children where they are provided with healthy snacks and explained about the different foods they can eat to maintain a healthy diet.

According to US research institute the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), energy deficits can cause short stature, delayed puberty, menstrual dysfunction, loss of muscle mass and increased susceptibility to fatigue, injury or illness, while energy excess can result in obesity. 

Nutrition workshops by the Força Goa Foundation answered practical questions from parents and coaches on what foods are good for young athletes, when to eat them, how to eat before and after matches, and how to adequately replenish nutrition requirements after vigorous activity. 

Focusing on the demands of growing athletic bodies, Wellishia D Sa suggested that an ideal diet for young footballers comprised 45-65 percent carbohydrates, 15-30 percent protein and 25-35 percent fat, as well as plenty of fluids for hydration.

“Young athletes require higher nutritional inputs compared to non-athletes who play informally and without training. For girls in particular, it is essential to focus on consumption of iron, calcium and Vitamin D as they hit puberty to avoid facing low hemoglobin levels which cause performance delays,” she pointed out.

Meal prep was a focal point of the workshop, indicating that prior planning could help build a balanced diet through food items that children enjoy. D Sa explained how to calculate calories from macronutrients – fats, proteins and carbohydrates – on food labels, and threw in useful examples of foods that offer a combination of these components such as dairy, nuts and seeds for proteins and fats, or beans and legumes for carbohydrates and proteins. 

Janice Homem, whose seven-year-old plays in the Little Gaurs League, said, “The tips to marry proteins and carbohydrates were fantastic. My child naps for long hours in the afternoon, and foods with combo macronutrients will offer enduring energy rather than the instant spike and crash from carbohydrate-rich snacks.”

Additionally, D Sa emphasised consistency in good nutrition, with the odd cheat meal as a treat. With the physical demands of football, 5-6 well-balanced meals a day are required regularly for good performance and quick recovery. Young athletes, she said, need to consume between 1800 and 3500 calories per day based on their training schedule with lots of grains, 2-3 cups of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit for vitamins and minerals, meat and beans for proteins, and minimal oil intake.

Through the workshop, parents were better able to understand how nutrients work to serve the needs of their growing athletes at various points of their training and match schedules. Oats, sweet potatoes and ragi were offered as examples of high-fibre carbs that release energy slowly, keeping the child full and energised for long training sessions, while quick release foods such as raisins provide a burst of energy ideal at half-time during matches.

A multitude of options was provided as pre-game and recovery snacks with tips on including herbs and spices for their high nutritional value, such as a pinch of cinnamon masked in a dark chocolate smoothie, or a small amount of ginger juice blended inconspicuously into a glass of fresh fruit juice.

Janica Pereira from Bastora, whose son plays with the FC Goa Soccer School, found this one of the most useful points of the workshop. She said, “I have learnt practical tips for pre-match and post-match nutrition, as well as information on various foods that help with things like tissue repair which I previously had no idea about.”

Parents were also cautioned about convenience food and offered alternatives that were appetising for young children. For example, batata vadas or samosas can be switched with boiled egg or corn; yogurt, ripe avocado or mashed potato can substitute for mayonnaise in club sandwiches; chana chaat or puffed rice is as delicious as the unhealthier sev puri; and multigrain chapati wraps can stand in for the ever-loved cutlet pão. Sago porridge with honey, moongache godshe, dry fruits and bakhri laddoos were offered as dessert options, with fresh fruit juices and home-made smoothies the ideal swap for carbonated and sweetened beverages.

Wellishia D Sa wrapped up the workshop with salient tips on eating mindfully – helping children understand why they should eat healthy food, focusing on what they’re eating at meal times rather than on gadgets, taking time to eat their food, and eating healthy food together as a family since parents are seen as role models. She also touched on the importance of adequate sound sleep for healthy recovery, the value of buying seasonal produce and where to find them, and responsible disposal of kitchen waste.

The workshop was well-received, and there was hope that picky youngsters would welcome new dietary changes. Aditi Jain from Caranzalem said, “My son swims and plays football, but is a fussy eater. We are also vegetarians so our options are limited. But through the workshop, I now have a few options for evening snacks for him like cheela and sandwiches.”

After all, food is fuel for growth and good nutrition brings great results.

It’s a quiet Saturday afternoon and the sun beats down mercilessly, but their excited eyes glisten brighter than the sweat beading on their foreheads. Forty-five children line up at Sangolda Football Ground at the launch of the second edition of the Little Gaurs League past November, each player eager to put their best foot forward for coach and team.

This league, an initiative of the Forca Goa Foundation, aims to improve football in Goa by getting children to play organised football regularly.  There is enough evidence to show that physical activity promotes overall health and development for both body and mind. By using football as a way to get children out onto the fields, the Forca Goa Foundation can promote a variety of healthy outcomes – from bringing communities together and improving youth nutrition to developing a pool of talent for India’s national team.

This vision has resonated with parents, teachers and stalwarts in Goa’s football world who believe that starting young will make all the difference. FC Goa captain and national team player Mandar Rao Desai admitted, “I started playing football at 10 years, but I think it was too late. In Europe, children start at 5-6 years old, which is the best time to learn the basics.”

Jump Networks Limited (JUMPNET), a publicly listed technology company, has come on board as the Principal Sponsor to make the league bigger as well as strengthen the Foundation’s belief and vision for grassroots development.

Through the Little Gaurs League, more than 40 teams have registered for the north zone alone, nearly double from last year. The age categories of Under 6 (mixed), Under 8 (mixed), Under 10 (mixed) and Under 12 (girls) encourage coaches, schools and communities to field more players from their networks.

Chinmay has been coaching the Under 17 team at Saraswat Vidyalaya High School in Mapusa, but only recently stepped up to take over the school’s new Under 8 team, and he’s loving it! “It’s important to coach them at the foundation stage so they grow to be better players. Right now, I am giving them a feel of the ball and teaching them the basic rules and ethics of football so we can go forward later,” he said.

Still, training is only half the effort it takes to make a skilled player. The rest comes from real-time competition experience. “I joined the Little Gaurs League to give my team the opportunity to play,” said Flobert Monteiro, who has been training the Under 12 girls team at El Shaddai, Assagao, for two years. He added, “Due to a lack of tournaments, they don’t get a chance to play. If you train children but don’t give them a chance to play, it’s of no use. The more tournaments there are, the more they’ll learn, the more talented they’ll become and the better they’ll be in the future.”

The Little Gaurs League is one of the very few leagues in India promoting football among young girls. Former women’s international and Goa Football Association Women’s Committee chairperson Juliana Gurjão e Colaço believes that football is an excellent platform to promote all-round development in young girls. “It’s a robust game, and makes you strong and fit. At a younger age, there is mixed gender play, which is also good. Structured play helps build character, discipline, better communication and care for others, and also requires brilliance because you have to use your brain when you play competitively,” she said.

And the benefits are almost immediate. Reema Tyagi found that her 11-year-old daughter Reha, who is participating in the all-girls category for United Front, has become more confident since she started playing football, which has also improved her social skills as she interacts with children from other schools and neighbourhoods. 

Across the field, the final whistle sounds and the winners throw their hands up in triumph. As they shuffle off the grass, there are hi-fives and handshakes all around. It may seem insignificant, but in this gesture lies a message – of winning with joy and without vanity, and of losing with dignity and without dejection. 

As coach Flobert said, “Losing doesn’t mean one stops playing. You may lose the match, but you learn from your mistakes.” Football lessons are life lessons.