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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Euro 2004 sends Goans football crazy

By Frederick Noronha
In Panaji, Goa

Young Goan fans
Goans have been caught up in a drama far away
The tiny state of Goa on India's western coast is gripped by football fever as hosts Portugal prepare to take on Greece in the final of Euro 2004.

Goan fans say they are rooting for their former colonial rulers - overcoming habitual mistrust.

"My brothers and me will be watching the match. There's a Portuguese flag alongside the TV," Brahmanand S Shankwalkar, India's former goalkeeper and former captain of the Goan state team, told BBC News Online.

"I think 80% of Goa's football fans support Portugal."

Businessman Noel Lima Leitao disagrees - but only on the level of support.

"It's more like 100%. There's no empathy here for Greece."

Nostalgia

Over the last fortnight, Portuguese revivalism has replaced suspicion in the former colony as the hosts have won a series of nail-biting games to make it to the final.

Portuguese football has a thrill to it
Former India goalkeeper Shankwalkar
Clubs catering for Goans nostalgic about what they see as the good old days of colonial rule have teamed up with avid football fans.

Local sports journalist Anthony Marcus Mergulhao says no one has a bad word to say about Portugal now - at least as far as sport is concerned.

"After all, the Portuguese were the ones who virtually started football here and the Goa Football Association."

The Portuguese ruled Goa for over 400 years until the early 1960s.

A priest, Father William Robert Lyons, is believed to have introduced football to Goa when he came for health reasons in the 1880s.

Love-hate

Simon Gomes, a partner in a busy sports shop in the capital, Panaji, says he has sold about 250 Portuguese jerseys over the past few days.

Nalini Sousa
Portuguese things are selling well, says shop owner Nalini Sousa
English tops stopped selling once the team lost in the quarter-final - to Portugal, he said.

At the A Nau store, owner Nalini Sousa reports a brisk trade in all things Portuguese.

Food, wine and a whole range of Euro 2004 merchandise have all been selling well, she says.

Meanwhile, at Goa's famous coastal resorts, clubs and restaurants have put up big screens to attract custom during the monsoon low-season.

One distillery has even released a football-shaped bottle of the local liquor, feni, made from the cashew-apple, to mark the occasion.

If some still feel bitter about colonial rule, then football seems to be bridging that divide.

Even nationalist politicians have been rooting for Portugal - which observers say shows how far the pendulum has currently swung in the love-hate relationship.


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