Ronaldinho & Me: A Crazy Story Of A Goan Fisherman

Pulkit Verma  |  Special  |  6 Months Ago

The beautiful game is often used as an instrument for breaching the societal boundaries, barriers and helping live a life even after the world has disowned you. It’s the game that has magical powers to heal the broken souls and drained hopes. 


“Eu estaria morto se o futebol não tivesse me salvado”, said Nagashankar Bandodkar. “Many tried to contain but my love for the game has no bounds, especially for my hero, Ronaldinho…”


“People used to say that I’m crazy, or they still say it but I’m happier with what I have than them.”

“I don’t have a single penny more than just what I need to meet my ends, but I’m happy with what I have—Ronaldinho.”


5th July 2009, Nagashankar Bandodkar decided to leave his family house behind in the quest of life and football. He just had enough money to feed him for a day and hardly anything to cover his torso. Born to a tricker in Northern Goa, the 31-year old reminisces his tough journey that has everything but compromise on his dreams.Bandodkar started off playing in the neighbourhood, filling his breathers working at the beach. He took up many jobs during this time, from foot massaging the tourists to fishing, but always with an aspiration to play for his favourite club, Salgaocar Football Club someday.


“The only good thing in my life in those early days was football”, says Nagashankar, who showed us his football keepy-uppy skills with the same zeal that he probably had in his early days. 


“When you have a goal in mind and you love it with all your heart, everything else looks a smaller problem”, he added. “People worship Jesus for all their problems, I worshipped Ronaldinho…”

Life put Nagashankar Bandodkar on an ordeal where he apparently lost so much over the years. While it has been many years he last met his father and the mother he was most coddled by, his own brothers— who too are the fishermen hates him for breaking ties with the family. As we raked on, Nagashankar showed us a picture of his two years old nephew Jayant in his phone. The love for the family didn’t fade, but what’s settled upon it is a layer of guilt over these years. 


The football in India was hugely captivated by the Goan clubs at one point in time, and it ran for close to a decade. Dempo started the trend by winning the National Football League in the 2004/05 season and it brought a revolution in Indian Football. They won it back again in 2006/07 and the season that followed. 2008/09 was the season for Churchill brothers before Dempo took the I-League baton from them back again. It was then Salgaocar in 2010/11 before Dempo claiming the trophy for the record fifth time. The final time any Goan club won the I-League trophy was Churchill Brothers in the 2012/13 season. This was the time when the Goan youth was mostly pulled towards the game. Nagashankar, around that time was highly influenced by the kind of buzz Ronaldinho was creating at the other end of the world—Barcelona.


“While it was all happening, my ambitions and optimism would soar higher than ever each day, but somewhere deep inside, a seed had been conceived that the sport wasn’t for the people like me…”


“I broke my ankle in a neighbourhood match and had no means to support myself for the next two months. I was frustrated but there was absolutely no one to hold my hand.”


Well, what was born came with a definite end. Nagashankar Bandodkar quit aspiring to be the Ronaldinho of India trading on the heels of some real hard time in his life. 


“It was devastating when the first time I said no to a game of football…”, said Nagashankar with misty eyes. “It didn’t happen in a day or two, it happened over hours and hours of hatred what I was going through.”


A year later, Nagashankar Bandodkar bought a ship and took up what was running through his blood—Fishing. After all these years, Nagashankar fishes in the daytime and watches football at night. His wife, Bhavikani too is a football fan and the two talks about football intensely for hours. 


In the year 2015, Nagashankar bought a new ship and named it Ronaldinho. According to Nagashankar, he named his ship after his favourite player so that the bond stays intact. No matter the situation, has slashed his dream of playing football, but his passion for the game and Ronaldinho couldn’t be trapped under the clouds of the bad times. 


“I have a dream, that I meet Ronaldinho one day, but I guess it's a bit too much to ask for.”


“But if I ever do, I’ll surely give Ronaldinho a ride in my Ronaldinho…”


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