To shake off Sydney Lemos’s shadow, Dubai’s FC Bardez to go for a reputation change

PANAJI: Sydney Lemos’s claim to fame started with a little-known club FC in Dubai. Owner and player, it was FC Bardez’s success that made him venture into Goan football as he became the principal sponsor of in 2015.
After having rubbed shoulders with Ronaldinho and Zico and even getting Neymar to make a surprise call to his wife Valany, as Sydney serves over 500 years in a Dubai jail, his team FC Bardez is planning to change its name and its identity connected with the scamster. The mastermind behind the over $200 million Ponzi scheme is in jail for duping thousands of investors of their savings.

For a year, FC Bardez tried to fight it out on the field and off it, and even found a new patron. But every time the team walked out into the field, Sydney’s notoriety came to haunt them.

“Sydney was our sponsor but without him, too, we continued for a year with a new sponsor. It’s a community thing out here (in Dubai). (But) now there is lot of negativity, so we might change the name. It’s sensitive (issue),” club manager told TOI from Dubai.

Gilroy’s concerns are understandable. A lot of investors from Dubai, primarily Goans, were left destitute from the collapse of Exential when the authorities shut down operations in 2016.

Every time Bardez took to the field, the anger from the sidelines was overpowering.

“We thought about changing the name last year as well. Despite what has happened in the past one year, we will continue to provide an opportunity (for Goans) to play football. We will soon have new branding (for the club). Let people come forward,” said the club manager.

Gilroy, along with a group of friends, which included Sydney, formed the club in 2012. A footballer who captained his school team, Sydney used to do duty for other ‘village’ teams in Dubai but felt the need to have something of his own. FC Bardez was then conceptualised, and besides being a defender—always guaranteed of his place—he was the financer too.

Young players from Goa, who could not make a career out of football, were lured to Dubai with the promise of a job. These players were either placed at Sydney’s companies—Exential or FC Prime Markets—and given handsome salaries or accommodated in the hospitality industry where several Goan well-wishers were willing to help.

Sydney co-owns FC Bardez, another team in Goa as well, and not surprisingly his arrest has left this team in doldrums. Unlike last season when Bardez made all the right noises after getting Rs 1 crore funding from Sydney and by appointing former India coach Armando Colaco as their coach and getting former India captain Climax Lawrence on board, this season has been one to forget.

Bardez finished 10th among 12 teams in the Goa Professional League and there are huge question marks over the future of the club which aimed to play in the I-League, India’s top-tier club competition.

“Irrespective of what has happened with the sponsorship, the club somehow maintained its position in the league. We intend to continue in the coming years but with a much more thoughtful process,” co-owner Savio Roy D’Souza had told TOI in a previous interview.

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