Wed, 26 Jun, 2019

Disappointed but proud: expats roar for Blue Tigers

11th January 2019, 03:11 Hrs

FRANKEY FERNANDES   

ABU DHABI

It was a disappointment for Indian and Goan expatriates in the UAE who turned out in large numbers for the important AFC Asian Cup clash between India and UAE, as India ran out of luck and missed crucial opportunities to go down 2-0 to the hosts.   

The enthusiasm of Goan soccer fans had peaked after India’s historic 4-1 victory over Thailand in the opening encounter.   “We are in full strength supporting Team India,” said Bijoy Dourado, a Goan expatriate who hails from Vasco, as many Indian fans sported the FC Goa jersey to make an impression. Agnelo Cardozo, an expat from Pilar, added: “The atmosphere has been electrifying in the stands. While the local UAE team fans among the 43,206 spectators at the match were accompanied with music instruments, the 12 Blue Pilgrims were an equal match and were as vocal.”   

Former India player Maurice Almeida, former Dempo Sports Club official Antonio Botelho, former All India Football Federation Secretary Alberto Colaco, Vasco Sports Club senior official Vinod Parkot, former Dempo coach Armando Colaco, FC Goa Technical Director Derrick Pereira and several other Goan spectators were also in the stands supporting the Indian team. Parkot said the 43,000-plus crowd support was a sign of growing interest in Asia for a team like India.   

Commenting on the match, Derrick Pereira said, “It was a good performance by the Indian team but we ran out of luck. Two attempts hit the crossbar and few other attempts were saved by the rival goalie. But with the resources available, the Stephen Constantine-led team did a commendable job against a much superior team like UAE.”   

Added Terrence Menezes, a Goan based in Mumbai: “UAE may have scored in the 40th minute, but it was clearly the Indians who held the upper hand in the first half, with Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri missing out on a clear goalscoring opportunity that came his way... Chhetri could have equalised in the very next minute, but highest goal scorer after Lionel Messi (among active players) failed to collect a long ball and shot wide.”   

Paul Cardozo, an expat from Pilar, said: “The much higher ranked UAE team were made to sweat all through the 90 minutes by the resurgent Indian team.” Samson Fernandes, a student of Goan origin based in Australia -- who along with his family had flown to the UAE specially for the match -- added: “India had the best chance in the 54th minute, but the shot from Udanta Singh struck the crossbar.”   

The next match in Sharjah against Bahrain is important for India to advance in the tournament. India is placed second on goal difference in the group which has Thailand, UAE and Bahrain. “It’s important for India to play an attacking game against Bahrain on January 14 as they can qualify for the round of 16,” said Samson Fernandes.