Akshay Tandon: Our focus is on developing Goan players

FC Goa became the winners of the inaugural League Winners Shield in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) last season with a squad filled with local players. The likes of Brandon Fernandes, Seriton Fernandes and Lenny Rodrigues enjoyed plenty of game time over the course the campaign and played key roles in the Gaurs topping the league standings.

Playmaker Brandon, in fact, finished as the highest Indian assist provider (7) and repaid the faith shown in local talents by Goa. The club’s president and co-owner Mr. Akshay Tandon, who was the guest on episode 32 of Let’s Football Live hosted by Anant Tyagi, is eager to continue helping such talent develop and realise their potential.

“We have learnt a lot about Goan football, and we have chosen to focus on developing Goan players. That is our philosophy. You can see that in our youth structure. We are carrying forward a legacy started by many of the previous clubs in Goa (Dempo SC, Salgaocar FC). There are players in our development team that we found in village tournaments,” he said.

The involvement of FC Goa’s local players in Hero ISL 2019-20 increased to a point where the club featured eight Goans during their away tie against Kerala Blasters FC, which saw Lenny score an injury-time equaliser. Mr. Tandon spoke about wanting to build a squad around such talents and pointed at the achievements of the club’s development team.      

“Over the last two seasons, the Goan players have had their chance to shine, and that is definitely the direction that we want to be going in. The way we plan to build our squad over the next couple of years is all focused around what we are doing with our Goan boys. The promotions from the development team to the first team show very clearly how that is happening,” he explained.

The Gaurs have appointed Juan Ferrando as their new head coach for the upcoming Hero ISL season and Mr. Tandon had pleasant words for the Spaniard, he said, “Juan is the guy that we were looking for, for this next phase of FC Goa. In the experience that he has had, he led a team from the third division to the first division (Greek side Volos FC) and winning the Coach of the Year (in 2017-18). He is very fluent in every aspect of football, like the data, the mental health, etc. He lives and breathes football.”

In keeping with the club’s philosophy of developing youngsters, Mr. Tandon feels that the Gaurs have placed their faith in the correct individual to lead them forward. “He was very excited about working with the youth and working with Derrick Pereira, our technical director and the head of our youth. He wants to create a stable eco-system of players going from the youth team into the first team. It is a very exciting new chapter, and we believe Juan is the man to guide us through it,” he said.  

After finishing on top of the Hero ISL 2019-20 league standings and claiming the inaugural League Winners Shield, Goa became the first Indian club to directly qualify for the group stage of the AFC Champions League. While expanding on the club’s participation in the AFC Champions League, Mr. Tandon said, “It’s a very exciting yet daunting challenge. We plan to take it a game at a time and the idea is to get points out of every game and that is our strategy. I am hoping that we are able to surprise a few teams. If we are able to come out with a few great performances that is really what we are aiming for.”

“No one knows where we stand in the Champions League in Asia so far, but we will go with a positive attitude. Juan is very much aligned with what we want to achieve, not only in the Hero ISL, but also in the AFC. We have been planning for it for several months,” he added.

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