The Brazilian striker was a star performer, having led the National Football League in scoring with East Bengal in the 2003-04 season. After scoring Dempo’s second goal, he lay immobile. He went through on goal, past the final defender, and had prodded the ball beyond Mohun Bagan’s goalkeeper, Subrata Paul.
Paul raced out and clattered with Cristiano Sebastiao de Lima Junior with his left fist as he flicked the ball into the net with his right boot. The 25-year-old Brazilian was left sprawled on the ground after an unnecessary off-the-ball challenge.
Who was this Legend?
When Cristiano Junior signed for East Bengal in 2003, he lit up the league. In his first season in India, he led the National Football League in scoring 15 goals in 18 games. His lethal pairing with Bhaichung Bhutia helped the Red and Golds capture their first and only league title.
He transferred to Dempo and became the country’s highest-paid footballer. The Goan club would go on to win their first league title in 2005, under the leadership of Armando Colaco. In honor of Cristiano Junior, the number 10 jersey was retired.
Marcus Mergulhao tweeted: “Remembering Cristiano Junior on his 17th death anniversary. He died on the field, scoring twice for Dempo against Mohun Bagan in the Fed Cup final in 2004. I still remember the phone call. He’s dead, I was told, and I just couldn’t believe it. Dempo has retired jersey No 10.”
About the Final Match
Dempo was leading 2-0 in the final of India’s top cup competition, the Federation Cup, in 2004, but all thoughts of the game were briefly abandoned as the young Brazilian striker refused to budge. Multiple officials attempted to revive him as he faltered, collapsed, and was brought to the sideline.
Many players on both sides collapsed to their knees, some raising their palms to the sky, refusing to believe what was happening. The All India Football Federation requires each team to have its doctor present at the match.
Tragic End for Cristiano Junior
Cristiano was finally transported by ambulance to Hosmat Hospital, where he was pronounced dead upon arrival. He died of a heart attack induced by the accident and the hyper-excited state he was in while scoring the goal, according to autopsy reports.
Following the incident, the All India Football Federation, which was heavily chastised for failing to get the player to a hospital on time, stated it will cooperate with Fifa and the Asian Football Confederation for further investigations. The Indian regulatory body, on the other hand, declined to penalize both clubs for breaking the rule of not having a doctor present at the location.