Jawaharlal Nehru - “It is not true that we covet Goa. That small bit of territory does not make any difference to this great country India. We do not desire to impose ourselves on the people of Goa against their wishes. It is definitely their responsibility to choose for themselves. We have assured Goans that it is for them to establish their own future and I further assure them on matters such as Religion, Languages and Customs”. - 21st August 1955.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Why Euro 2016 final, #FraVsPor, will be special in Pondicherry and Goa By Ajay Mankotia
Pondicherry retains vestiges of French influence. The architecture, boulevards, cuisine, gardens, European mansions, walkways – all are reminders of France’s colonial presence till 1962.
Pondicherry is the Indian Côte d'Azur, a pocket of French style and refinement on the east coast of India. During our trip to Pondicherry, during evening walks on the seafront, we used to see the leisurely French game of pétanque being played with heavy metal balls by the local people.
But one French obsession that the French didn’t leave behind is the football culture. The number of football clubs is small and their standing in the Indian pecking order rather dismal. But that doesn’t mean that football is not watched with fanaticism. The French nationals as well most of the local population of this former French enclave are ardent supporters of the French national team – Les Bleus.
French supporters will hope Antoine Griezmann can continue his rich vein of form.
Contrast this to another former colony of a European power on the western coast of India. Goa has in excess of 200 clubs across the top four tiers of football in addition to several hundred village clubs.
Football is a religion in this former Portuguese colony. They worship it. It runs in their blood. Clubs like Dempo, Churchill Brothers, Salgaocar, Vasco are all blue riband clubs of the country.
The Portuguese ruled Goa for more than 450 years until 1961. The Portuguese influence is all pervasive and it’s no wonder that most of Goa has had a soft corner for the Portuguese over the years. So why should football be any different?
A number of Goans who gained Portuguese citizenship which guarantees one the privilege of becoming a European Union (EU) citizen are now based in the UK and the rest of Europe as Portuguese Goans. They also support Portugal, over England or the other countries of which they are citizens.
Portugese supporters will have faith in Cristiano Ronaldo.
So when Portugal and France square off on July 10 at the Stade de France in the Euro 2016 final, the Portuguese and French nationals will not be alone in cheering their teams. Halfway across the world, denizens of the former colonies in India will also be chanting "Portugal" and "Allez Les Blues" in bars and restaurants, at public squares and in houses.
If it were a match between Goa and Pondicherry football teams, it would be a walk in the park for Goa. But whether the three-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid can prevail over his neighbour and the Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann will only be known once the final whistle is blown in Paris.