Interview by Naveen Peter- Asian College of Journalism
In an era where loyalty can be easily bought for any sum of money, few players in the footballing scenario stand out and assert their allegiance to the world.
The Indian footballing circuit is also not alien to this development. Considering the Indian football where players play mostly for the love of the game than the money they earn, one could never accuse a player if he decided to switch sides for a better pay cheque. Indian footballing greats like Sunil Chetri and Baichung Bhutia are fine examples of people who switched sides in search of a better remuneration. But, a player like Clifford Miranda is absolute rarity.
After starting his career with the Salcete FC, a team renowned in south Goa for being a nursery of young players, Clifford’s movements were restricted to one club in the Indian footballing circles, Dempo FC.
Even though he moved to the prestigious TATA Football Academy (TFA) in Jamshedpur where he honed his football skills for four years his return to Goa was never a surprise to any of the critics in Indian football. Clifford was the only TFA graduate from his batch to sign a professional contract when he signed for DempoSC, a second division club in 2000. Since then there has been no looking back for the Indian winger who helped DempoSC lift the national League title five times and the Federation Cup in 2004. He was also part of the team that played the AFC Cup semi-finals in 2008.
“My stint at the TFA was very helpful in developing my skills and also my approach towards the game. It was in TFA that I understood the role of team and how a game can be changed if all the 11 players stick to their assigned task,” says the Indian winger.
His service to the Indian national team too has been noteworthy. Since his debut against the archrivals Pakistan in 2004, the 30-year-old Goan has been an integral part of the national outfit. During the Bob Houghton era, Clifford became a regular member of his team due to his ability to dribble and deliver deadly crosses from the left side of the field.
Silverwares too have never eluded the winger on the national scene. He was a part of the Nehru Cup winning squads of 2007 and 2009 and helped Baichung Bhutia, the then captain of the Indian team lift the AFC Challenge Cup in 2008. He was also a member of the India team that participated in the Asia Cup 2011 in Qatar.
Speaking about the impact of the game in the country he believes that the beautiful game has not lacked in popularity among people in India. “When you compare, a Bengal derby (east Bengal V/s Mohan Bagan) or a Goan derby (Dempo V/s Churchill Brothers) has the potential to bring in crowd for the match rather than a domestic cricket match were two powerhouses of Indian cricket are competing for glory.” says the captain of Dempo SC.
He believes that it is high time that people realise the importance of the Indian footballing heroes. “It’s time that the local football tournaments have the pictures of Indian players or players playing the I-league in their posters rather than Ronaldo and Messi.” says Clifford who believes that the love for the game exists not only in places like Goa, Bengal and Kerala but also has a far reaching effect in other areas.
Clifford also asserts on a reality check that Indian football has to go through to access its quality. “I agree that the quality of football that we play in India is not as good as our European counterparts but, one should also acknowledge the efforts put in by the All India Football Federation (AIFF) to improve the infrastructure and the quality of football. The results of late do speak for themselves.” says the 30-year-old Indian winger.
As Clifford prepares to lead his team into another I-league clash, this time against the local rivals Churchill Brothers, he believes that the day is not far when the Indian football team will make a mark among the other elite national teams in the world.
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