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 Expatriate Indians Football in Kuwait: KIFF League Final

-by gasper crasto (22/06/2003)


The Kuwait Indian Football Federation (KIFF) League, the only competition of its kind among expatriate Indians in the Middle East promises a spectacular finale when the top two teams in the League, defending champions Navelim Youth Centre and the Kuwait Duty Free Shop sponsored United Friends Club clash on 27th June 2003 at Kuwait's famous Al Arabi Stadium for the coveted J.P.Memorial Rolling Trophy.


The League finals of 2002-03 will gain further impetus as Mr. Alberto Colaco, Honorable Secretary of the All India Football Federation (AIFF) and a member of the Technical Committee - Asian Football Confederation (AFC) comes to the country as a special invitee to be the chief guest for the event. 

Alberto Colaco, a celebrity and an undisputed colossus of Indian soccer administration has been involved in grooming many a Goan youngster into International footballers. Players like Mauricio Alfonso, Roy Barretto, Mario Soares, Roberto Fernandes, Climax Lawrence, Alvito D'Cunha, etc, to name a few, were trained under his astute surveillance and guidance.


Mr. Colaco is actively instrumental in running Salcette Football Club, which has been a nursery of football for many upcoming Goan footballers. Over the years, he has pioneered Goa's voice to host international matches and major national soccer events at Fatorda Stadium thereby providing all Goans an opportunity to watch some classic games. 


The summer heat and humidity in Kuwait may not be a perfect climate for the amateur players to display their full potential skills nor for a turnout of colorful spectators for the KIFF League finals but anyway it will all seem like a lovely antidote to enjoy an evening in the open. Football among expatriates in Kuwait fulfills its function to divert ones mind from reality and all football lovers fall for the con.


Football is the only sport which is innocent, honest, and somehow democratic in an otherwise sleazy world. It is the collective delusion about a better world. The mythology of football here is that it is an independent game, where the working man in particular can be heard. Trouble is, real life isn't like that. The myth of football here holds that the spectators are the clubs and it's their collective memory which remains constant as players, officials and clubs come and go.

In todays world of Cable Television, it is as if there is a theological choice to be made, between the doctrine of TV and the true path of actual attendance. Expatriate Indians and specially Goans miss watching their favorite teams Salgaocars, Dempos and even their village teams in action and as such most have found 'Live' telecast of European and South American soccer on TV thrilling.

Nobody is in any doubt that evil satellite television, making the games of brilliant teams such as Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United available to all, has corrupted the sensitive spectator. Everybody seems to be a Luis Figo, David Beckham or a Ronaldo fan but that has not really taken away the excitement of enjoying the Friday games in Kuwait.

The die hard supporters always throng the Sour Grounds and cheer the lads. People who have witnessed some of the most exciting matches played on Sour Ground in recent years do not believe in the negative hype of television soccer. Everyone is aware the games here are played for love and not fortune.

One may not certainly see huge crowds and players changing shirts with opposition teams after each match as seen on TV but the euphoria created during some games is nothing less than a 'World Cup' match. It is so in football anywhere in the world. If football weren't so exciting to watch, offering unscripted drama, it wouldn't have its global appeal. The finals of the XIth NYC Trophy in which Navelim YC came from behind after trailing 1-3 to beat GOA Maroons 4-3, was one such exciting game in Kuwait this season which will be remembered for a long time by those who witnessed it. 

Like all major sport, soccer in Kuwait brings together Indians of different cultures and societies arousing the crowds through an electric effervescence. Though there are clubs of Kerala, Mangalore and Bombay, majority of  the spectators ofcourse are Goans and one can see most players crossing their hearts as they run onto the ground.


Individuality in football is important, but obviously the team is more important than any one individual which begs the question: "where we'd be without some kind of a community, club, be the family, friends down the line, or our fellow supporters? We'd just be individuals and a bit lonely and isolated." 


Many communities and clubs in Kuwait have helped numerous young youths and individuals to expose or find their hidden talent and assisted them in achieving better skills in football; and by virtue of their soccer talent alone rather than their education, promoted them in other fields to become superior humans in society. In a different country and in a competitive world, most youths find it hard to attain great results without help and support from a community. This might sound like politics, but we wont be mistaken if we say there would be no Maradona without Argentina and no Maldini without Milan. Individuals should never be more important than a community but unfortunately, with involvement of some negative thoughts, success and glory are sometimes personalized and exploited.


Other than shopping which more or less is a kind of a social event and a sport for most expatriates in Kuwait, playing and watching football has become a way of enjoying a weekend for many enthusiastic Indians. Here are some interesting comments about football on Sour Grounds in particular:


A die hard supporter: "What I like about football on Sour Grounds is the atmosphere at every game, you can feel the vibe of the other supporters when your team is winning, you can feel the anger from the other spectators when your team is losing or if the referee made a bad decision, its like all the spectators are friends and get along together..."


A player: "I love football because it's an art, can drain out all of the emotions in a man week in and week out."


A Goan spectator: "I love watching football Live! Be it here, Goa or anywhere. I love watching the various ways of expressing pleasure and anger by players and their supporters at the end of the match and the different types of shouting."


A female supporter: "What I love most about football: My husband being completely, completely absorbed while watching football. I love football very much. I love the fact that there are always celebrations when our team wins a match, and if we lose, everybody feels depressed. We are like a big family when it comes to football."


Football activities in Kuwait were started by expatriate community way back in 1975. As years went by, these activities gained momentum and slowly flourished as more sports clubs were formed and this sport became very popular among the large expatriate community.


The Kuwait Indian Football Federation (K.I.F.F.) established in 1984 controls all Expatriates Indians Football activities in Kuwait. Apart from the League, Four(4) Regular; Five(5) 7-A-Side and One(1) 9-A-Side Non-Regular Tournaments are organized by clubs affiliated to KIFF. The J.P. Memorial Rolling Trophy - KIFF League is named after late Jerome Pascoal DMello (popularly known in India and Kuwait as J.P). Ex-FIFA referee and Member of Asian Football Confederation Referees Committee and Ex-Hon. Secretary and Member of Bombay Referees' Association, DMello who lived in Andheri East, Bombay, left for his heavenly abode in 1994. He was the prime architect in conceiving the idea of forming KIFF.   


The KIFF League of 2002-03 which commenced in September last includes 14 teams. The teams are divided into two groups of 7 each for a round robin League. The top team from each group is then drawn to play the semifinals against the second best in the other group and vice versa. The matches are played every Friday. Goa Maroons and Navelim Youth Centre have won the League a maximum of three times each since the inception of the J.P. Memorial Rolling Trophy in 1995-96.

In the semifinals of the League at Sour Grounds played in soaring temperatures of near 45C, defending Champions Navelim Youth Centre shattered AVCs (Assolna Velim Cuncolim) dream of a maiden League final appearance with a golden goal victory. The match winner for Navelim was scored by young schemer Duarte Pires with a powerful right footer from just outside the penalty area. In the other action packed neck and neck battle, last years runners-up Goan Overseas Association (GOA) Maroons went down fighting to a determined United Friends Club 1-0. The all important goal was scored by versatile player Sidney Rodrigues in the last quarter of the second half.

United Friends Club (UFC) with Sidney Rodrigues and Oliver DSilva among the best players of the 2002-03 League are geared up to take on their opponents. Oliver and Sidney would be orchestrating the midfield. Russel Rodrigues, Manuel (Babit), Aurelio DSouza and Agnelo (Mama) are other prominent midfield players. Jose Rod and Ejaz Ahmed will be the strike force but the success of UFC depends much on the guidance of their veterans - Sarto Baptista and Mario Lobo.

Navelim Youth Centre (NYC) undoubtedly the best team this season, have a cream of skillful footballers. Top scorer for the past 5 seasons Cruz Rodrigues is in tremendous form and has again proved a thorn in the opponents defence. Ignatius Miranda is the other striker in the team. The midfield is controlled by captain Gasper Crasto ably supported by the tireless Ivo Rodrigues, Duarte Pires and Americo Fernandes. Barring a lethargic Britto Pereira in the goal who has been a suspect and a bundle of nerves this season, the team has one of the best eleven. The defence comprises of Kennedy Ferrao, one of the best ball players seen on Sour grounds, Vincy Pereira, Christi, Alfred Pires and Salvador DSouza. They also have a pawn of experience in Cajetan Godinho who incidentally completes 25 years as a player in Kuwait. Stand-in goalkeeper Avelino Dias is another accomplished crusader in the team.

GOA Maroons and AVC play a third place play-off prior to the finals. Navelim Youth Centre are already the Season Champions having won major trophies this season. A Fair Play Trophy and a Top Scorer of the season will also be awarded according to an official note by KIFF President Mr. V.K. Vohra. All the League matches are officiated by the Kuwait India Football Federations Referees.

-gasper crasto


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