For many of those who were associated with soccer in Goa, going back half a century ago, the name of Manuel Rebelo, who passed away on Sunday, would evoke different emotions – a player would preen and swell with pride when invited to meet him; officials of other teams would gnash their teeth in envy and frustration when they learnt one of their flock had been spotted in his office.

Such were the passions he elicited as the undisputed kingpin of the Dempo football team. Dempo turned into a paragon of Goan football, winning the Goa Football Association’s top league – which evolved from being named First to Senior and to Professional – nearly a dozen times, becoming the first Goan team to win the Rovers Cup in 1974 (repeating the win on three other occasions), the NFL twice and in its new avatar, the I-League, thrice. The list is too long to write about.

My first recollection of “Manu”, as he was popularly known, was as the goalkeeper of the Club Tennis de Gaspar Dias hockey team, organized, if I remember right, by Mickey D’Souza and Cyril De Cunha. Then Mickey acquired Clube Desportivo de Bicholim and converted it into Dempo-Souza Sports Club, a throw-back to the Souza team which, pre-Liberation, had Bicholim as its home ground.

Manu who had joined the V.S. Dempo Company in 1963, was logically handpicked by Mickey as the Dempo component in the equation, to assemble players for the team.

Eventually Rebelo became the fulcrum of Dempo Sports Club, so renamed following the Dempo acquisition of the Souza stake in the corporate entity.

In 1996 he convinced me to take over his role in the Dempo team. The brief was that India was embarking on professional football and players needed to be contracted officially etc.

Post retirement he continued for a few years as Advisor to the Chairman of the Group. He continued his association with the football team maybe up to four or five seasons ago.

“Article contributed to the Navhind Times of the 4th October, 2016 by former Dempo Group employee and Dempo Sports Club General Secretary,  Mr. J. Antonio Botelho”