This series explores stories of future stars of football – 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. 

Zephyr Fernandes

6-year-old Zephyr Fernandes of the GMS United team was one of the top players we saw in the Little Gaurs League U6 North. His enthusiasm for the game was a treat to watch for all those who came to the games. Zephyr was awarded the Most Promising Player trophy and he was thrilled to receive the award. His parents are also proud of him and happy for his achievement.

At home, Zephyr has role models in his father and brother Ulysse both of whom encourage him to play. Following them, he started playing when he was just 3 years old. His enthusiasm and zeal for the game are quite contagious and we hope to see him back on the pitch next season!

Zacarius Fernandes
Zacarius Fernandes

Zacarius Fernandes from the U6 Regina Mundi team was the top scorer in the Little Gaurs League, Vasco. He scored 14 goals out of the 19 scored by the team and was thrilled to have won the Top Scorer trophy.

Zacarius started playing when he was 4 years old and loves playing all day long. He liked playing as the striker on his team and also attended the nutrition workshops we held for children. His parents say that they have noticed some improvement in his eating habits after participating in the Little Gaurs League. They hope that he keeps improving like this and plays for India in the future.

Jovan Gomes
Jovan Gomes

Jovan Gomes was awarded the ‘Most Promising player’ in the Little Gaurs League, South. A part of the U8 GFDC Navelim team, he gave some spectacular performances during the league, scoring 8 goals for his team. Jovan has been training under coach Micky Rebello for the past 2 years and has shown improvement since he started playing football. He has become more disciplined and constantly focuses on bettering his game.

His parents are proud and so happy with his performance on the pitch. They believe that at his age, children should have numerous opportunities to play and compete as it’s not just good for their health, but helps them learn how to get along with their teammates as well! With a constant debate about preference given to education over the sport, we’re overjoyed to see Jovan’s parents understand the value that sport can bring to a child’s development.

Here are some more stories about our future stars of football

This series explores stories of future stars of football – 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. 

Goa Football Development Council (GFDC)

The Goa Football Development Council (GFDC) was established in 2012. One of their focus areas is to train children at the grassroots level. In the 19/20 season of the Little Gaurs League, GDFC’s Navelim centre registered 3 teams – one each in the categories U8, U10, and U12. While the U8 and U10 teams finished second in their respective leagues, the girls’ team topped the table. The children trained under Coach Micky Rebello, Coach Mabel Mascarenhas, and Coach Michel Castanha.

GFDC had put up teams in the 18/19 season as well and was especially happy to know that an exclusive league for U12 girls was organized the following year. Calling it an important experience, they lauded the Foundation for providing girls with such an opportunity. We were so thrilled to see such talented girls playing in the league, and we’ve made ourselves a promise to continue our campaign #GirlsScoreGoals and make football an equal playing field!

Jazmine Fernandes
Jazmine Fernandes

Jazmine Fernandes started playing football when she was 10 years old. Her younger sister Abigail also enjoys playing the game. Jazmine spends almost an hour and a half daily practicing. A part of the Princess Pea – St. Thomas team, Jazmine showed talent and consistency during the league. This earned her the award for the Most Promising Player in the North U12 category.

Jazmine’s favourite matches are the ones that go to penalty shootouts. She likes the excitement they bring to the game. Her parents are proud of their daughter’s accomplishments in the league. They see the improvement the competition has brought out in this young champion. Even Jazmine feels that her shooting accuracy has improved by playing regularly. We want to see her back on the field next season, helping her team win more matches!

Maximo Manrique
Maximo Manrique

Maximo Manrique received the Best Player Award in the U6 South category for his impactful performance in the league. He led his team to the top spot. His father was a player for his state in Colombia. With his roots belonging to the home country of some top footballers like James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao, Maximo has a natural inclination towards football. His parents are happy to see him play and compete and encourage him to improve his skills.

Maximo started playing when he was 4 years old and he practices for a couple of hours daily. He pushes himself to improve further and enjoys being a part of the team. His parents would like him to take part in club football in the future and we are sure he’ll have the flair of a top Colombian footballer!

Read some more stories about our future stars of football.

This series explores stories of future stars of football – 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. 

Ulysse Fernandes

Ulysse Fernandes started playing when he was 3 years old. His mother tells us that he, his father and his cousin all love football. He could spend the whole day playing if he got the chance. What Ulysse loves the most about football is participating and winning. He was thrilled at having received an individual award in the league.

Ulysse’s performance at the Little Gaurs League was phenomenal. He scored 21 goals for his team GMS United, making him win the top scorer award. This helped his team stay in the hunt for the top spot throughout the U10 league in the North zone.

While talking to us, his mom tells us that everyone at home is extremely proud of Ulysse playing so well. She will surely see if she can enroll him in a football school in the future if that’s where his passion lies. We hope this amazing player keeps his love for the game alive and wish to see him achieve much more in the years to come.

Naomi Viegas

Naomi Viegas played for the Manovikas team in the South Zone of the Little Gaurs League. She was awarded the Most Promising Player of the tournament for her excellent performance. She showed great skills on the pitch and scored some amazing goals for her team.

Naomi started football at the age of 10. Her inspiration is her uncle Mingule Rodrigues who plays for the Salcete and Sesa team. She loves attacking and defending in equal measure and takes time out every day to practice her football drills.

Her parents feel that since she has started playing regularly her focus has improved. She has also started involving herself in the development of her game and her team. They are happy to see girls being encouraged to play at the grassroots level. Seeing her deliver good performances in the Little Gaurs League, they want her to keep improving and perform at the club and state level.

We are sure Naomi will keep the love for football alive. She is bound to inspire many other future stars like herself to start playing and achieve their dreams!

Sairaj Patil

Sairaj Patil was the captain of the U8 Regina Mundi team that participated in the Little Gaurs League in Vasco. The team gave some amazing performances! Sairaj scored 8 goals in the league, 4 of them in a single match! He received the Best Player award for his stellar performance, making his parents very proud!

While his mother was an athlete in her school days, his brother Manas currently plays for the FC Goa U16 team. His parents hope that Sairaj too will continue playing and follow in his brother’s footsteps. They saw the league as a platform for him to gain more experience by competing against various teams across Goa.

Sairaj developed an interest in playing football at a young age. His parents enrolled him in a football academy when he was four and a half years old. When asked what he likes about football, he says he loves to dribble past defenders and score goals the most. Sairaj sessions at the Regina Mundi School’s Academy for 2 hours thrice every week. He also spends most of his time practicing at home or playing with friends.

We hope his football journey gets him more accolades and that the Patil brothers continue to make us proud.

Here are some more stories about our future stars of football.

The AIFF (All India Football Federation) has recognized the Little Gaurs League as one of the top 10 Golden Baby Leagues in India! With that, we also received the opportunity to nominate one player from the Little Gaurs League for a very special gift by Mesut Özil – an autographed Arsenal jersey. The German player gave 10 signed jerseys to the AIFF in a bid to encourage the budding players for their future in football. The top players from the top 10 Golden Baby Leagues received this award.

The Little Gaurs League was recognized for giving 957 players the platform to take part in a competitive league and play regularly. Our efforts to increase the number of girls who take part in the league were also noticed. In the first season, we only had 5 girls, which increased to 230 in the second season. The league has shown tremendous growth in just two seasons and we are thankful to the AIFF for noticing our efforts towards the development of grassroots football in India.

The Little Gaurs League was recognised by the AIFF as one of the Top 10 Golden Baby Leagues in India

It was difficult for us to choose just one player from the 957 children who participated. We nominated Vivaan Furtado to receive the award – being one of the best players in the Under 6 age category. A part of the Play Goa A team, Vivaan showed some superb skills on the pitch and consistently gave amazing performances. He scored 27 goals in 6 matches and led his team to the top of the table. He not only scored consistently but also led his team to victories in two crucial matches. For a young footballer to play so well in a pressure situation is not something you see every day. We hope that with this award, Vivaan is inspired to improve and maybe take up a few of Özil’s skills from the pitch!

Being recognized as one of the top 10 leagues in the second year of the league is a triumph in itself. This recognition could not have been possible without the efforts of our coaches. They have been a wonderful support system to the players and to us. Also, a special thanks to the parents of all our Little Gaurs for investing their time towards the league, coming to matches and cheering on the players. 

This achievement has motivated us and we will continue to work towards making the Little Gaurs League bigger and better –  giving more children the opportunity to play, foster the development of coaches and referees, as well as improve the experience for all the parents and players.

This series explores stories of future stars of football – 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. 

Kurth Dsilva

Kurth Dsilva has a great role model in his father – an ex-captain of the Goa Basketball team and a national level athlete. His older brother, Kayden plays as a goalkeeper for his school team. With such role models to follow, Kurth started playing football at the age of 4.

A diehard fan of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kurth spends almost 4-5 hours with his football daily. He loves to score goals and tackle opponents during matches. A team player, he gets along with everyone on the pitch. His dream is to play for the FC Goa team someday!

He was extremely happy on winning the award for the Most Promising Player for his amazing performance in the Orange Squadron YFA team. After playing in the league, his parents also feel that he has emerged as a better player. We hope this talented young footballer keeps on achieving all his dreams and we can’t wait to see him back on the pitch next season!

Christy Nunes

This is the story of a parent who wanted to fulfill her child’s wish of playing in the Little Gaurs League. Christy Nunes is the mother of Chris Nunes, a passionate young footballer who wanted to take part in the league. As they did not have a team, Christy took charge. She assembled a team, got them registered, found a coach and without even realising she became their team manager. Let’s take a look at her journey.

Christy’s first task was to assemble a team. It was not as easy as it sounds. The search for players started from the football coaching academy her children attended. But sadly, there were only 2 Under 8 children enrolled there. She also spoke to a few coaches whom she knew but that didn’t prove to be fruitful.

Finally, she went to Sharada Mandir school. Most of the children who had played football had already enrolled for the Little Gaurs League. The ones that were remaining had little to no prior experience of the game. She wasn’t sure how the team would perform given that they had no coach and all the players were new to the game, but she couldn’t let her son down. She took the chance and got the players registered. Thus, the Sharada Mandir team enrolled in the Little Gaurs League U8 category. 

However, the team was playing together for the first lacked training experience initially – which was crucial as they were playing together for the first time. As a result, they lost the first 3 games of the league. The kids were super disappointed. Christy spent a lot of time and energy to search for a coach who would take up this challenge. After searching for a while, they managed to get Coach David on board.

From then, there was no looking back. The children practiced regularly with Coach David and the turnaround was impressive. They started winning matches making the players happy and confident! The Sharada Mandir team finished 4th in the league and Christy recalls how satisfied she felt.

“The biggest inspiration and reason for me to create a team and participate in the league was my son Chris who walks, talks, eats, and dreams football” says Christy.

Christy is thankful to all the people who supported her during this experience, especially Hemant and Caliston from the Organising Committee of the League. She feels that the support she received from them and the parents was vital in this journey.

We are in awe of such parents who support their children’s dreams. Christina had started because she wanted to support her son and she ended up giving a whole team the opportunity and the platform to play, develop, and #GrowWithTheGame. 

Vivaan Furtado
Future star of football Vivaan with the winners trophy

Vivaan Furtado, a part of the U6 Play Goa team, was a star of the Little Gaurs League! His maternal grandfather was a Salgaocar sports club stalwart and this young footballer is all set to follow the same path. He started playing when he was 4 years old and his parents are fully supportive of him following his dreams!

Vivaan helped his team win many matches securing a spot at the top of the table. Apart from being the 2nd highest goal scorer in the U6 category, his excellent performance also earned him the Player of the Tournament award. His parents recall how happy he was to receive the reward and are proud to see him do so well on the field.

The LGL was Vivaan’s first experience of a competitive tournament. His parents tell us that he was thrilled with the opportunity and encouragement he received. His mom and dad have also noticed a boost in his confidence through the experience. He has learned that hard work and focus can take him to great heights. We are glad to see this young footballer has taken back so many learnings through his experience in the league and hope to see him back on the field next season.

Want to read more stories of our future stars of football? Take a look here.

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.