Felix Barreto Defender (1968-1980)

Felix Barreto

Defender (1968-1980)

There is a glint of sadness in Felix Barreto’s eyes as he recalls the 1976 Rovers Cup first round clash against lowly Central Bank of India in Bombay. Dempo were the defending champions and heavily favoured to navigate their way past the local side. The fixture ended 2-2 but everyone were left to rub their eyes in disbelief when the bankers scripted a stunning 1-0 win in the replay. The Dempo player who was the most inconsolable was Barreto as he held himself responsible for the loss, having slipped on the wet turf while defending a through ball, allowing his rival an easy passage towards goal. It was probably the only time that the star defender erred, and it’s something that he hasn’t been able to forget all these years. Barreto hardly put a foot wrong thereafter, and it’s no surprise that successive coaches never dared to replace him. Like several of his contemporaries – Socorro Coutinho and Felix Alphonso, to mention just a couple – Barreto was spotted and groomed by Cyril Ferrao, Dempo’s first coach, and the first Goan to earn his coaching diploma from the National Institute of Sports. That both hailed from Chinchinim was incidental; Ferrao had no favourites and nobody knew it better than Barreto, who spent his early years training under him, first at the Navelim-based 3MTR (he cycled from his home in the early morning to attend practice), then at Shantilal SC and eventually Dempo. “I was initially playing as a midfielder and it was Cyril who turned me into a central defender. I respected his understanding of the game and when he suggested I would be better off in defence, I blindly accepted his decision,” said Barreto. As it turns out, the gaffer was spot on as Barreto flowered into a fine stopper back during a successful 12-year stint with Dempo, essaying some brilliant performances that helped the club win some big trophies like the Rovers Cup, Stafford Challenge Cup, Nizam Gold Cup and Bandodkar Gold Trophy. Talented enough to have been among the four Goan players shortlisted for an India assignment in 1976, Barreto signed for rival clubs thrice: East Bengal (in 1970), Mafatlal (1975) and Bank of India a year later, but eventually baulked at joining them and stayed put with his beloved club till his retirement in 1980. Barreto was part of every big moment at Dempo during this period and as far as he’s concerned, nothing can match that.