Dempo’s moment and the grief

FOR SPORTS PAGE:Dempo's Cristiano Juniors warming down during the half time and he died during the 26thth Federation Cup Football tournament at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore on December, 05, 2004. Photo:. Sampath Kumar.G.P.   | Photo Credit: Sampath Kumar_ G_ P

After winning the Federation Cup final for the first time in 2004, Dempo SC, instead of celebrating the Goan way, slipped into mourning

The club had emerged as India’s champion club following the 2-0 runaway victory over Mohun Bagan at the Kanteerva stadium. Twice before in FC, the team had stumbled in the final (1996 Kolkata and 2001 Chennai) before Cristiano de Lima Junior swung fortunes his team’s way with two goals against the Kolkata side.

The Brazilian should have been leaping into teammates arms after the final whistle and with the trophy for a Dempo victory parade. Instead, Junior came back in a coffin, a few hours after the champions landed home in Goa.

Former India defender Samir Naik, captain in 2004 and a senior player, remembers the empty feeling as the squad failed to come to terms with Junior’s death following an onfield accident with goalkeeper Subrata Paul.

Naik said: “We won, but there was no celebration. Winning the Federation Cup and then feeling numb about Junior’s loss made it difficult for all. We returned with the trophy and went on winning many tournaments from then on, but losing a valued teammate was tough on us and for fans who lined up to receive us on return.”

The Brazilian was declared dead by doctors after being carried away from the turf. “We thought it was a normal football injury and hoped he would join us after the match.”

Naik, rated as motivator and role model by current Dempo coach Arthur Papas, revealed that players on the field were not told about their teammate’s demise till the final ended. “We saw him being carried away and continued playing as the title was to be won. Junior had taken us so close, we fought for him. Later, after the match, someone mentioned the sad news.”

Bagan goalkeeper Paul was banned for two months by the AIFF. He manned the bar for Salgaocar SC on Thursday in the semifinal against Dempo.

Naik feels teamwork is the common link between 2004 squad under Armando Colaco and the latest bunch coached by Papas. “I was in the national camp when he joined Dempo, so did not get time to know him as well as others who appreciated the way Junior kept the team together.”

Colaco moved to East Bengal, teaming up with Ranti Martins who happened to be closest Dempo player near the fallen Brazilian in the 2004 final.

Paul was blamed for the rival’s death and took a long time to recover from the shock of a two-month ban imposed by the federation and get back to becoming one of the best custodians in India.

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Printable version | Aug 1, 2021 5:18:05 PM |

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