Panaji, Aug 2 : The name Clifford Miranda belonged to a boy back then - just another boy from Goa. One who dreamed of playing football; like so many other. This one though, was different. He had a dream and was ready to pay the price to realise the same.
Along came the Durand Cup. A young 16-year-old in the Tata Football Academy back then, Clifford was drafted into the squad selected to represent the Jamshedpur-based side for the 1999 Durand Cup.
“It was huge then and even though the dynamics have changed, this is a competition the whole of India is proud of. The third oldest in the world, our boys have a chance to get their names associated with such a prestigious event,” exclaimed the head coach of the Developmental Team that will travel to Kolkata a few days from now to take part in the prestigious competition.
“The Durand Cup served as a stepping stone for me. It was a huge opportunity to get noticed. And the same stands for our young boys who will be heading there.”
A few years down the line, having established himself as the mainstay at Dempo and a star in Indian football, the boy from Goa would go on to help the Blues clinch the Durand crown.
“Durand is emotional for me,” states the now 37-year-old. “From the nervous start as a teenager to winning it and going into the tournament as favourites with Dempo, it was a big part of my career path. I finally left the field with my leg shattered into four pieces (an injury he sustained whilst playing against Air India). That was the last time I played that competition.”
And now, he moves into this year’s tournament as the coach. He thus has an opportunity to get his name into a rarefied stratum.
“I never imagined I would one day be the coach of a team playing in the Durand Cup but life can take you places you least expected. It’s been a long time. I can’t wait,” states the former Durand Cup champion.
The Developmental team will be up against it when they face some real formidable tests in the form of reigning I-League champion Chennai City to go alongside last year’s surprise package in Indian football – Real Kashmir. But he relishes the challenge in front of him and his boys.
“We will be moving into the fifth week of our pre-season. So I would say I think we will be quite okay in terms of physical conditioning of the team. It is not the one time – that would have been like say six weeks into training. But it’s not a moot point for us,” states the former Indian international.
“In the Goa Pro League, I felt the team performed the best against the so called ‘big boys’ in the league and that fills me with confidence.
“This is going to be a great experience for the youngsters as we know in Real Kashmir and Chennai City, we have two opponents who come into the games as favourites. So this comes as a great time to learn about ourselves and gauge our progress. Winning and development at FC Goa are not exclusive of each other.”
The youngsters start their Durand Cup campaign against Army Green, Bangalore on August 8, 2019.(UNI)