The Salgaocar legend speaks about the importance in having love and passion for the beautiful game…
When you talk of the legendary Goan footballer Menino Anjos Figueiredo, one has to rewind all the way back to Goa’s pre-liberation days.
He started playing at the club level at age of 17 with MCC and was included in the Goa Selection team against visitors Benfica from Portugal and the Karachi Port Trust side at the Panjim Police Grounds in 1959. He also made it to the Goa XI squad that was to tour Portugal.
However, Goa’s Liberation from the Portuguese rule in 1961 stalled the tour to Portugal. Thereafter, he spent 13 fruitful years as a professional footballer at Salgaocar FC where he made a name for himself as an indispensable member of the team.
In 1962, Menino and the entire Salgaocar team had the honour of being felicitated by late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at his residence when the first Prime Minister of India when they competed in the Durand Cup football tournament in New Delhi.
Then in 1963, when Russia visited India on a goodwill tour, Menino would become the first Goan footballer to represent the country after Goan-origin players from ‘Bombay’ (now Mumbai) such as Neville D’Souza (1953), Joe D’Sa (1954), Fortunato Franco and Deryk D’Souza (both 1960) wore the national team colours before him.
The stalwart defender led Salgaocar in the 1963-64 season when the Goan powerhouse emerged Goan First Division league champions with an unbeaten record and captained the Goa’s first-ever Santosh Trophy team. He was called to the national team setup once again when Russia repeated their visit India. He was also included in the India XI for an exhibition match against an Australian side in 1967, both in Mumbai.
Back at club level, the Carmona-based footballer was also involved in the maiden Bandodkar Gold Trophy in 1970 – the first outstation tournament to be held in Goa – where Salgaocar finished runners-up to the Jalandhar-based Leaders Club from Punjab.
Anthony Veronica Fernandes is someone who witnessed Figueiredo first hand and also holds the distinction of coming up against him in his playing days.
“When Menino was at the fag end of his career, I was just beginning mine. There is nobody like him in Goa, after him,” the former Sesa FA footballer told Goal.
“During that time, the system (formation at Salgaocar) was two backs, three halves and the rest (five) forward. Menino was the right-footed centre-back. He was extremely good in aerial duels, could use both legs with equal ease and perfect execution and be very quick. He was a dependable defender,” Fernandes continued.
“During those days, some of the best players were ‘pakle’ (a term used to denote fair skinned Portuguese) and to stop them was so difficult – Menino used to control them very nicely as he was physically very strong.”
In fact, as Fernandes would recall and as written in his blog, “Once, in 1965 at Panjim Police ground, while Salgaocar was leading by two goals, Menino was suddenly injured and was taken out for about six minutes to administer first aid. However, during these six minutes, Salgaocar’s defence crumbled like a pack of cards conceding two goals. Later part of his playing career, Menino Figueiredo shifted his position to half line. I played against him many times.”
For someone else who has watched Menino play and later worked under his tutelage, Arjuna Awardee Brahmanand Shankwalkar has fond memories of the legend.
“I watched him play at Tilak Maidan. I also saw some of his matches at Campal (Panjim). Late Dr. Remigio Pinto, who was my coach, used to take me with him to watch those matches when I was around 11 years old. He (Figueiredo) was a towering figure wearing jersey number 5 when Salgaocar used to wear their red and black shirts. He had a fantastic figure and could cover the entire ground.
“He was also one of the preliminary coaches at the Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) when we had started the Carmona centre and I was assisting him for a few years. Without holding any licenses, his experience of football was immense and he used to love imparting his knowledge with children,” conferred the recently appointed chairman of the Goa Football Development Council (GFDC).
He shares his date of birth with ‘Father of the Nation’ Mahatma Gandhi, although born 67 years later on 2nd October 1936. According to his mantra, the now 84-year-old Menino Figueiredo would tell you that it is only your love for the game of football that could make you successful in the long run while playing for money may last only for a short duration.
“Those who want to play football don’t need anything but love (for the game). If there is love (for the game), you will get somewhere. If you do not have love (for the game), whatever you do, football will never be in your grasp. (With love for the game), once you start propelling, you will keep excelling (in the game),” he said in Konkani, Goa’s local language, via a video shared by his family.
“In today’s world, it’s all about the money but then players last for a shorter duration too,” Figueiredo added to conclude his opinion.
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