Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh

Archive for the ‘Goa’ Category

Homestay in Goa

Goa has become an ‘all year’ holiday destination. Be it rain or warm sunshine, it is still a pleasure to ride around or just bask on the beach and relax.

And because Goa is home for me, it comes with dual benefits. An opportunity to catch up with family, and also rest my sore eyes and raw nerves.

Millions of Indians and foreigners feel the same, and if you plan to head down to Goa for a day or two, here is a place you can stay at, other than in a hotel.

My husband and I have put up our 2 bedroom flat, located in a housing complex of Mapusa, up AirBnb. – here is the link to our place – https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/7644780

You can also like our page on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/goaallyear

To book my place you can email me at lilliandcosta [at] gmail.com

Our Apartment in Mapusa is

  • 16 kms from Panjim (30 mins drive)
  • 47 kms from Margao (1 hr drive)
  • 38 kms from Vasco (49 mins drive)
  • 9 Kms from Anjuna (18 mins drive)
  • 10 kms from Calangute (20 mins drive)
  • 13 kms from Morjim (23 mins drive)

Staying at a home rather than in hotel in Goa offers you an opportunity to experience a different slice of Goa. A more unvarnished, domestic experience.

If you are holidaying in Goa for the first time, I could advise you on places to stay, foods to eat and means of transport.

A homestay can also be fairly cost-effective and lets you spend more shopping and eating, rather than on your accommodation.

A few pictures of our Homestay in Mapusa 

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Discover the Technology behind Your Hotel Stay

Goa is one of the smallest states in India, and little more than a dot on the country’s map. Yet did you know the coastal state played host to over three million visitors last year? The internationally renowned holiday hotspot attracts guests both from abroad and the expanding Indian middle-class, and the 101 kilometers of Goa’s coast has an impressive density of 3000 hotels!

ImageWith guests flooding in, the state has all types of hotels – from luxury to lodges. The high frequency of visitors and high occupancy rates means few hospitality properties can manage without software. Yes, behind your wonderful hotel stay, there is software and technology that notes your bill at the bar, food ordered up to your room, services availed of at the spa, and clothes you sent for laundering.

When your stay at the hotel ends, the software will send out a ‘Thank you’ SMS. The hotel will continue to stay in touch with you and wish you on your birthday and other special occasions. Expect to receive emails or SMS’s on special offers and discounts at the hotel, and when you come back next year with your wife or friends, the hotel staff will greet you by name.

Thanks to the hotels guest history feature. Hotel staff will already know the newspaper you like to read, the type of pillow you requested during your last visit, and even the drinks and food you enjoyed at their restaurant. At last, you are not just another revenue figure; you have found a little comfort zone away from home.

Hotel staff come and go, shifts change, but your favourite hotel knows your needs.

All this is made possible by a large hotel property management system that works ceaselessly – day and night. Did you know, a hotel property management system can be fairly complex, and includes software modules like Front Office Management which you can encounter at the lobby, Point of Sale in the restaurant, Accounts Receivables to manage payments, Finance Management, Housekeeping, Inventory Management, Telephone Management, HR and Payroll, Food and Beverage Costing, Quality Management, Banquets and Conferences, Sales and Marketing and more.

Yes, almost every department of your hotel is managed by its comprehensive property management system. This may seems strange, for all you see are smiling hotel staff at your beck and call. But it is precisely this software, which manages the large number of hotel operations and enables its staff to serve you well.

Added to this massive software that runs the hotel almost seamlessly, are a host of other applications too. From key cards, to fancy tablet based e-menu applications to wow you with sumptuous foods, mobile check-in so you walk straight to your room, to customized in-room entertainment. The list can go on.

The Indian Middle Class is traveling

As the Indian middle class expands, it is expected to exceed 600 million in India. This is a spurring growth in the travel and hospitality industry. The recent economic downturn may have curbed the construction of five-star hotels, but the mid-market segment of four and three star hotels is booming. Research[1] shows the millennials – those born between 1980 -2000 are expected to be avid travelers, love urban locales, travel in organized groups and use mobile phones and social media to post travel reviews.

You may expect to see more technology making its way rapidly into hotels with wi-fi and mobility apps. From the hoteliers perspective software as a service (SaaS) is the next big thing.

How safe are the details you give your hotel?

However, everything is not hunky dory with the hospitality industry. More recently, hotel software has come under the scanner for being vulnerable to hacking. Yes you read right. Hotels see hundreds of guests each year. Larger the hotel, bigger the size of their database. Cards – debit and credit- are the easiest and arguably the safest mode of payment, yet it is exactly this information that attracts hackers. Trolling the web for systems they can break into, and data they can easily steal and sell, hackers find hospitality property management systems easy to breach.

1Doug Meal, partner at Ropes & Gray, says “data breaches at hospitality-related businesses account for as much as 40% of all data security breaches.”  Thankfully there is a way around it. Some countries require hotel software to be PCI DSS compliant. This means payment card details are stored in an encrypted format and are thus hacker proof. India has not enacted this legislation which requires hotel software to be PCI or PA DSS compliant. However IDS NEXT, a hotel software provider with over 26 years of experience providing hospitality technology that has a large presence in the Goa hospitality industry is PA DSS compliant. This obviously is not only a huge benefit for the hotel industry, but for guests visiting these hotels too.

Rampant Construction in Goa Finally Takes a Toll

The people of Goa have long been concerned about the construction boom in the state. Wealthy folks from all over India, particularly the big metros of Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore, with huge incomes have bought into the ‘tourist paradise’ glitz and glamour and have been over the last decade or so been mopping up apartment block after block. These flats remain closed all year except for a few days in the summer or during Christmas.

ImageWith row upon row of locked residential apartments, the government has escaped with no planning on infrastructure. Tiny pipes still bring water inadequate if the entire block had actually been occupied. Poor power supply continues to persist, the telephone lines are bad, and so is the mobile phone signal. Garbage collection and disposal is pathetic.  And yet, if you wish to buy a flat in Goa, expect to pay fairly inflated rates.

The collapse of the building under construction in Canacona in early January 2014 is symptomatic of this rot that has been plaguing the construction industry in the state for years. Feeding on the crazy demand for holiday homes, builders like vultures have come in from neighboring states. Their marketing infrastructure is easily able to pull the wool over the eyes of potential buyers with money to dispose but ill-informed about the quality of the construction being undertaken. These builders in turn know that they are not there to stay but rake in the profits. The result, 25 dead, a number of injured and people still trapped and unaccounted for as a five story building caves in like a pack of cards. The adjoining building has also developed huge cracks and the government plans to immediately demolish it.

The construction workers killed on the project are mostly poor migrant daily wage workers. Insurance would be unheard off; they had come to Goa with the hope of a better life. Now they have lost their lives. The construction industry in Goa has long functioned not without political patronage. Every builder pays lakhs to convert the land, get permissions from the electricity and water department; they pay more money to get occupancy certificates. So while builders fill their coffers by cutting corners on construction material, politicians fill their coffers with bribes. The consumers are fooled into parting with their hard earned money, and the poor construction workers pay with their lives.

It is a sad path we in Goa have chosen to walk down. A path where our villages have turned into concrete piles, where people with no commitment and love for the village flood in like rampaging locust, where suddenly there is a water and power shortage, and garbage everywhere.

The reality of this disastrous situation hit me a couple of years back when I tried to buy a small flat in Goa. Better known builders had flat starting from 60 lakhs and above and when I told their sales people my budget was half of that, they slammed the phone on me. I then turned to a couple of brokers. The brochures they sent out offered rates even more fabulous than the builders. “But I work in India I protested, I earn in rupees, every one of which is taxed, isn’t there any place for me in my own state?” the brokers immediately removed me from their mailing lists. When I asked the sales folks of these builders’ questions that any buyer should ask, I was told, “There are customers who send over the down payment without seeing the site”. “Oh really,” I had to remind the marketing folks, “I am handing over to you the last few years of my earning, and committing to you the next few years of it as well, why then should I not quiz you to my heart content.” I was deeply frustrated and disappointed with the response.

Later, I did manage to buy a flat at a reasonable rate, the only reason I can pay the EMI on the loan is because I work outside Goa. I still feel purchasing housing in Goa is beyond the reach of most peoples income in Goa. Why? Because some druggie believes Goa is ‘happening’, some party animal believes Goa is ‘Yo’, because someone with unaccounted money believes he can account for it if it becomes brick and mortar in Goa. In the process, housing construction comes to a halt and fancy holiday homes with swimming pools and gyms, gated condominiums are all you can buy. And what about the Goans, trying to find a home in his state?

I find the ‘hype’ around Goa honestly absurd. It’s a hot, humid coastal state. There are better beaches in other parts of India and I have seen them in Kerala and Karnataka as well. The weather is unpleasant expect from October to Mid-Jan, I hate coming down to the state in summer. So cut through the crass marketing hype, and the Goa sold in the expensive brochures is the proverbial Shangri-La – keep searching. The only reason I continue to love Goa is mind sizzling heat & humidity and its dank, moldy rains is because there is nowhere else I feel like I belong.

It’s about time the world got to know this puffed up, fluffed out state they see in tourist brochures. Learn that this beautiful state has been barbarically pillaged for its sun, surf and sand and the greed that hides behind it all. This greed has been the bane of peace loving, caring, cultured Goans.

More Reading

Man behind Goa collapse finished 5-flr Ulwe tower in 6 months flat (Mid-Day.com)

http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/cover-story/Man-behind-goa-collapse-finished-5-flr-ulwe-tower-in-6-months-flat/articleshow/28462479.cms

Stench of Garbage Breaks Up a Reverie

DSC_9846I remember my village of Saligao as idyllic. In so many ways it still is. Gentle rolling hills full of cashew trees, a sprawl of a thousand slopping roof houses and the soft sight of green paddy fields making waves in the breeze. Coconut trees dot the village and drainage trenches that turn to streams each monsoon. It’s a calm village, full of a gentle people, each busy with trying to carve out an honest living.

DSC_9757 DSC_9833I remember the hills of Saligao the most, for that’s where folks took their goats and cattle for grazing and that’s where you went to snack on the rich fruits of cashew and Jambuls. As little kids, you looked up into those huge trees and imagined vampires and ghosts. Those solid tree trunks took on menacing shapes. We scrambled up and down smaller trees, and I remember playing house as the goats grazed on the rich grass. There were flowers of varied hues and fruits that looked pretty, but you dared not eat. As we played, we could hear the incessant thud of wood being cut, then, villagers relied heavily on this hill for firewood. I remember the night air filling with the eerie howl of foxes and wondered if like the grandmother in red riding hood, they could get near enough to devour us.

DSC_9847Each cashew season, we went into the hill to sneak out a few cashew seeds which we carefully dried out and roasted. On a rainy day the fragrance of roasting nuts filled the neighbourhood and it was delicious. Cashew juice is also extracted to make alcohol, but before the process of fermentation begins, it makes for an interesting, non-intoxicating drink.  I remember taking glass bottles and going up to buy ‘niro’ as we call it.

Sometime later the hill was fenced off. The forest department took over, cattle and goats were prevented from going there to graze, guards prevented people from cutting stacks of fire wood and new trees were planted. The green cover got denser, we could now hear the distinct call of peacocks, and those who saw them admired their large, rich plumage. It seems rabbits thrived, the wild boar, once excessively hunted returned to feast on the succulent cashew. The endangered monitor lizards roamed free, the dwindling foxes were back again in large numbers. In the thick foliage of creepers, wines and massive trees one can hear the call of many species of birds. Yes, it’s idyllic or almost, for a decadent industry crept in, unobtrusively and nonchalantly like a breeze, it is a so called clean and green industry, it is glamorous on the outside, but a cesspool on the inside and it is called Tourism.

DSC_9784 DSC_9736My village boarders the world famous village of Calangute, better known for its crowded beach, and when the tourists have come and had their fill at the hotels crammed into a few kilometers of space, trucks of waste find their way closer into my relaxed, sleepy village. The garbage has been dumped on the crown on my idyllic village for over a decade now, unsegregated, rotting, untreated, all types of waste. An abandoned quarry that is alight all year round, sending up plumes of smoke in the middle of a picture perfect scene of thick grass filled with morning dew, scampering rabbits, chasing foxes, scuttling birds, languid water buffalo and mud-puddling butterflies.

The stray dogs and scavenging raptors have made the garbage dumping ground a war zone, the rising clouds of smoke has injected toxins into the air, and the fly ash has seeped through the red laterite rock and contaminated our famed, medicinal Salmona spring. Yet local people with no access to any other means of portable water continue to consume it, even as the contamination seeps further into the ground. The people protested, albeit feebly and the garbage dumping continued, unabated, year after year, leveraging the unassuming loopholes in the law and the superficiality of boundary lines.

Now the famed village of Calangute is tired of the charade and wants to wear its pride and forex contribution to the state coffers on its sleeve. No more sneaking into your village with our stinky trucks of garbage they say. We are going to ride in with pride and as victors; we are going to dispose of our waste at a modern day ‘garbage treatment plant’, and they have brought their Goebbel’s along with their magical bottles of star dust.

Pictures of Saligao courtesy Nagaraj P

Pictures of the garbage site courtesy  Dean D’Cruz

ImageAnd the script is not new here. It is exactly what the capital city of GoaPanjim did to the tiny, exuberant village of Curca, not so long ago. Under the guise of a World Bank funded project, day in and day out, they strong armed their way in, with trucks carrying tons of waste. Feel privileged, it’s from the capital city, it’s the waste of the elite they seemed to taunt, as they dumped their contents into an open abandoned stone quarry on the crown of the village. A tiny vermi composting unit stood in a corner, a farce and façade rolled in one.  And then I looked on at what was to be my first glimpse of proverbial hell, a little hut of rag pickers amidst the swirling smoke of burning garbage, as dirt smeared folk rummaged through massive stacks of garbage, trying to eke out a nasty living.

So I need no soothsayer or fortune teller to tell me how this is going to end. It’s a well-worn script and it’s going to be played out with a foretold conclusion. My village of Saligao is going to be the newest goat at the sacrificial alter of tourism or development, however you want to see it.

There are always those with miserably short memories, there are always those greedily yearning for those pieces of silver, and there are always those who arduously pave the way to hell with their good intentions, I think this lot will win, against the prophets who have not been acknowledged for many decades in their own village, and will not be now. And my village of Saligao will live on in a corner of my mind, a little of it dying each time a new truck comes by and empties its rot onto the softest grass and putrid pungent stink fills the crisp clean air, and the reverie of a wonderful village is broken.

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When It Rains, It Pours … In Goa

Come mid –June and the South-West monsoons descend upon Goa, and you can’t truly understand what that means unless you are there. The tourist brochures and languid, sultry pictures of waving palms, happy people, parties, little boats and great fish, lull your senses into somehow believing that this is Goa all year round, but if you happen to arrive there anytime from June to August, be prepared for a shocker.

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As I nested into the Goa bound Bangalore bus, I was heading to a monsoon whose ferocity and viciousness I had all but forgotten. The monsoon in Bangalore is a myth, which keeps getting larger by the year; we don’t carry umbrellas or rain coats and if there is a sudden downpour we just wait it out. The longest it’s rained here is half an hour and so no Bangloreans wears rainy shoes.

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At the border we were welcomed by dark clouds, the premonition of doom and it began raining so heavy the windshield of the bus turned opaque. The wipers zoom back and forth, and the rain gushing down in torrents, giving just a second of visibility to the driver.

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Looking out of our window, it was like heading into a surreal place. The barks of trees were slippery black, the leaves heavy and droopy; there is a flourish of life as nature tries to capture lost territory and every little spot, except the grey, smooth road had turned green. Everywhere you cast your eyes, its green, green, green in different shades and shapes, but it’s pleasant, smoothing, almost calming to the mind.

The sky stays an angry gray through many days. The cloud cover so thick, not even a blush of sunlight penetrates its strong armor. Goa has a significant population that works abroad, and having lived there for some time forget the ferocity of the south-west monsoons. Often, they build houses in the new fancy styles they may have encountered abroad – flat rooms, courtyard covered in tiles – and when the monsoons rule supreme for three months each year, you see these homes cowering in fear of destruction. Huge structures covered in plastics of yellow and blue, the windows all wrapped up, their balconies and verandas shielded from the lashing rain; the tiles gone deep green and dangerously slippery and for a brief time nature wins.

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In such inclement weather, you would think the population of one and a half million would slow down their lives, and burrow in for some cozy rest. But no, school children trudge on like little turtles. Colorful raincoats protecting their lovely new books, people head to work, driving many kilometers mostly on their two wheelers, the place is abuzz with vinyl mushrooms, and man fights to retain his superiority.  It’s a constant battle, man and nature fighting to win. In days gone by, people prepared, and stored food for the monsoons. Transportation was a problem then, and everyone was engaged in agriculture, not so now and people who about their daily life, making the rains an integral part of it.

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One of the main highlights for us in the monsoons, when we were kids was to set little paper boats afloat in the storm water drain that ran by our house. The water gushed by with a strong gurgle and we competed to see whose boat went furthest. The rocks in the drain were the main obstacles and led to the sinking of many newspaper vessels. The monsoons were also a great time to take our rudimentary fishing rods and head to little ponds that formed again through the network of storm water drains. A piece of earthworm for bate and we would sit around for hours waiting for fish the size of your index finger to tug at our line. Fish is scarce in the monsoon, and all the fish was taken home by one of the kids whose mother actually cleaned and cooked them.

The fields are flooded by the incessant rain, and field crabs and muscle flourish – amazing that pesticides haven’t yet decimated them into a hot, spicy, coconut curry.

While being great fun for kids, the three whole months of rain are hard work for the farmers. Organic manure is still extensively used, and you can see folks with baskets of cow dung on their head, walking off to their fields. Ploughing is still done with oxen and buffalo, with the wooden plough held down by a man standing at the end. The sowing of paddy seed is down by hand. The pigeon population has grown exponentially claim many, and you see men and women, weathering it out in the incessant rain to prevent the newly soared paddy from being devoured by these little feathered pests.  Soon, women will wade into shin deep water to begin transplanting the young crop, then the weeding, fertilizing, weeding again, followed by constant monitoring that the little mud banks around the field are holding strong. Rice needs to constantly have a few inches of water so that it grows well – ah it’s a treadmill. When I see the work put in by farmers, I hesitate to waste even a grain of rice, one cannot help but remember the manual labour, through health and sickness  that goes into growing that food. In other parts of India, it is the loss of these very life sustaining crops that drives farmers to despair and suicide, touch wood, Goa has been shielded.Image

For three whole days we battled the inclement, hostile weather, as we had loads of outdoor work. The loud patter on my raincoat, as I huddled pillion on a two-wheeler. The rain comes down in sheets and one needs to bow their head in submission to keep the face from the incisive, sharp rain that hits you with the force of acupuncture needles. The rains seeps through the strongest raincoat, soaking your hair, your clothes, you can feel the dampness taking over, your body shivers with the discomfort and you usually come out of this downpour shaking yourself like a wet dog and feeling as forlorn as a wet cat. But that’s the monsoon in Goa and for a short break, offers up its own charming experience.

Pictures by Nagaraj Papanna

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Breaking a Leg in 2011

Mom, myself & Nagaraj with our Christmas tree

End of year are exciting times. I was to be heading home after a strenuous eight months in Bangalore. Having changed my job but a few months earlier, adjusting to my new job and workplace had been hectic. Nothing like an holiday in home sweet home Goa, take in all the awesome food and attention before heading back to work for another round on the grind.

Goa has a lot of hoopla and hype around it, especially during Christmas and New Year, especially for all its beaches, drugs, alcohol, nightlife and women. To us Goans, Goa is just home. It’s the cool breeze one can enjoy sitting on ones veranda, greeting familiar faces as they pass by, eating loads of fresh fish, sharing meals with family, catching up with friends, all in a very relaxed and congenial environment.

The excitement of heading home had led me to shop extensively and I could not wait to pack my bags, until a week before I missed a step and what I fervently prayed was a sprain turned out to be a fracture. A Jones fracture to be precise.

A cast, and five weeks of rest is what the orthopedic doled out nonchalantly. “W-H-A-T”, I shouted, “five weeks, you must be joking”. I live a rather hectic life, waking up at 6.00 a.m. cooking my meals, travelling to office, beginning work ahead of time,  travelling back, cleaning, washing… I hate sitting around in one place unless I’m working on my computer. My mind is always abuzz and I’m doing stuff, now I have to sit in one place with my right leg alleviated, oh man that is simply going to kill me, I thought. The first week I went about like a wounded animal. Frustrated, aggressive, irritable, snapping at those around when I wasn’t engaging in self pity…. It was terrible.

Finally, I decided I needed a perspective change and convinced myself to look at the brighter side of things. This was an opportunity to slow down, sit and smell the coffee. I could now jam on the brakes and experience what it means to be dependent on others, how to seek assistance, how to appreciate assistance, relearn the importance of interdependence. I re-acknowledged the tons of love, concern and caring that makes the world go round, from my dear neighbor who brought over steaming bowls of sumptuous food, to another neighbor who accompanied me to the hospital, the auto and cab drivers, my concerned colleagues who kept calling and messaging to ensure I was comfortable, my family who kept my spirits up and positive and then catering to my every request when I reached Goa. Lowering myself a few notches, life came back from fast-forward to its normal pace, a bit leisurely … on the whole, it was nice.

For five weeks I could not travel and thus needed to work from home. For the last six years I had not spent more than a week at a time in Goa, the slow pace of life bored me. Now I spent a month there, and it seems like fun, work from a comfortable, caring home, enviable isn’t it. I had to thank my luck I had the most cooperative office and a family that felt it could be with me every step of my temporary disability.

My restricted movement actually came as a blessing in disguise, I was back to reading, something I love to do, write for my blog, something I had not done in a while. I got to spend loads of time with my nephew and nieces who were springing up but I didn’t have the time to watch them grow. I got time with my mom and sister; my friends and relatives who visited me. I got loads of time by the window, take in sights and sounds I previously had no time for.

My mom Virginia with her grand kids
My nephew David and niece Jamima at the BBQ

For a while now, I have been associated with the disability movement, now I know just a little bit, what it means to have a disability. The hardships that are bestowed upon the person without their asking.  The limitations a person with a disability experiences because their surroundings have been insensitively designed for able bodied people.

I nearly through my five weeks of hindered movement, wont kid you that I can’t wait to get my cast of, but the learning’s have been tremendous, almost worth the initial suffering that has since evaporated into lessons I could not have paid for even if I tried.

The Frenzy of Football

Football in Goa

Football is in the blood of every Goan and the high that comes only with this racy sport can be seen as people gather at their village grounds every other day. Some of these football fields are mere flattened paddy fields, but the thrill of watching the ball race around can be got just about anywhere if you’ve a Goan.

Came rain or shine, week days or weekends, there are matches happening almost every day in some parts of Goa or the other. And many a young athletic boy dreams of taxing his muscles, getting his adrenaline going, covered in the sweet smell of excited sweat, all to be playing for a local club.

With people fanatic about football, most villages have their own football clubs and the inter-village tournaments can be fiercely fiery ones.

“Goans have the potential to lead the country in football” says Aldrid DaCosta, English FA-qualified football coach, who left the UK and followed his passion for football, all the way to ancestral Goa. “Countries all over the world with Portuguese or Spanish influence make up the best football teams in the world, some examples being Brazil and Argentina. Goa needs to exploit this heritage”, he continues.

Getting their kicks from Football

Aldrid DaCosta walks his talk and has set up the GOA Learning Soccer School which conducts football camps for young students all year round. Aldrid has tied up with numerous schools and trains their football teams too. Many of these schools have gone on to win inter school championship trophies too.

Sport, as a vital part of education has been diminishing in value. Burdened by school, travel and tuitions, children have become couch potatoes, preferring to unwind before the TV or computer than go out and exercise their muscles.

Sports, help young boys and girls grow to their full potential, make them physically strong and athletic.

Sports, especially group sports like football, instill young boys and girls not just with a competitive spirit, but gives them faster motor- eye co-ordination, enhancing their instinctual abilities, helping them understand the importance of team work and co-operation. All these are invaluable learns which will help young boys and girls get ahead in life.

Thankfully some school and parents are beginning to recognize the importance of sports in the development of their child and going by the large turn outs for the GOA Learning Soccer School Camps, Goa may well retain its dominance in the football arena after all.

If you would like to contact Aldrid DaCosta,

Cell number  +91-  9823 281781   Email – atdmdx@gmail.com

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