Akshay Tandon: Community a big part of the FC Goa ethos
With two semi-final and two final appearances in their five Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) campaigns, FC Goa have possibly been the most consistent team in the competition's history till date. Consistency, however, isn't the only trait associated with the mighty Gaurs as the team is also considered as the most entertaining side to watch, playing fearless attacking football. FC Goa co-owner Akshay Tandon reckons the team's identity has been moulded through its close association with the Goan community, which is known for its love for the beautiful game.
In a recent interview with indiansuperleague.com, Akshay Tandon shared his and the team's ambitions for the upcoming season, the impact of Ferran Corominas on Indian football and more. Here are the excerpts.
Q: What are your objectives for the upcoming Hero ISL season?
A: We are looking forward to it. I think what we have achieved is that we have been the most consistent amongst all the clubs by retaining most of our players, managers and staff at the club. Last year, we were just a goal away from the championship, so eyes on the prize. Hopefully, we can make it to the Asian (AFC competitions) level at the end of the season.
Q: What steps have been taken to achieve this level of consistency in your reign?
A: Three years ago, when I took over, we laid out two or three-year goals for almost everyone at the club, including the players and the coaches. Most people have achieved most of their goals. In Hero ISL 2017-18, after finishing at the bottom of the table (in Hero ISL 2016), our goal was to make it to the playoffs. Hero ISL 2018-19 was to be at least be in the final. Now we are at the point where everyone always knew that we are on a three to five-year path to recovery and consistency. So, we are just trying to communicate and make sure that everybody has what they require.
Q: What was the idea behind having a Spanish core of players and coaching staff?
A: It was essential for us to have a very aggressive style of play. We did not want to compromise on how aggressive we wanted to be. We had a list of about 60-70 coaches out of which we shortlisted about 8-10. When we interviewed and met Sergio (Lobera), he was the most uncompromising in his interview and as everyone has seen since then, in every single interview or post-match press conference, he is the one who never says that he will back down or change anything. He actually doubles down and always has. So, he happened to be Spanish, yes. But, of course, because FC Barcelona have laid such a strong foundation for the philosophy and style of play, it came together nicely.
Q: Ferran Corominas has made a lasting impression on Indian football. How valuable is he to FC Goa?
A: In two seasons, he has come and shattered every record in the Hero ISL and Indian Football. If we look at his goal conversion ratio, it is almost 50%. For every two chances, he scores one. The speed at which Indian football is currently being played, he is still able to dominate in terms of how he is able to finish and create chances, sometimes out of nowhere. You do not expect a 5’7" player to be scoring headers in the middle of giants around him.
Q: How much do the fans mean to the club?
A: I think we are a club that represents the whole community and that is now very much part of our ethos. We don’t do anything without involving our fans and having them to be a big part of our activities, marketing and season tickets. I think we are the only (Hero ISL) club who have crossed 1000 season ticket holders and this year we are going to be crossing 1500 season ticket holders. We owe it all to the fans, we do it for them and we do it to engage with the community. We are committed to having Goans and locals in our squad. So, it is all thanks to our fans, the Goan community and how passionate they are about the game. So, if we can just give back to them what they give us, then we are simple custodians of their pride.
Having won their first piece of silverware with the Hero Super Cup 2019, FC Goa will be hungry for more success in the upcoming season and needless to say the Hero ISL 2019-20 trophy will be the singular focus for the Gaurs and the FC Goa fans once the season kickstarts from October 20.