Ivan Gonzalez was rock solid in defence for FC Goa in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 season. He was one of the first names on the team sheet for Juan Ferrando, registering 56 tackles, 73 clearances and 28 blocks. His defensive proficiency was tested extensively in the Gaurs’ AFC Champions League campaign, and his contribution was instrumental, as the side went on to grab the third place in a highly competitive group.

Reflecting on the AFC Champions League, he said, “I knew it was a very important competition for the club, the players and even for the country. In my head, I was only concentrating on the 90 minutes ahead of me for each of the games. It was a moment where I knew I had to step forward.”

Settling into the new season, FC Goa have had a busy pre-season schedule, as they fielded a full-strength squad for the Durand Cup and have several pre-season friendlies lined up to help their squad regain match fitness. “We are having a better pre-season than last year and it shows. The goal is always the same, to prepare ourselves as best as possible to be able to perform well and try to win the league,” mentioned González when asked to comment on the upcoming season’s preparations and goals in an exclusive interview to Hero ISL.

A notable feature of the Gaurs’ Durand Cup campaign was the emergence of youngsters, with the likes of Muhammed Nemil and Devendra Murgaonkar leading the goal scoring charts for the club. González, who is a senior presence in the dressing room, is delighted at the crop of talent he is observing at the club. “Within FC Goa I have seen the young boys this year have taken a step forward - really keen on seeing the likes of Sanson (Pereira), Princeton (Rebello), Nemil, Leander (D'Cunha) and others take a big step forward this season.”

The current season will continue to be organised in compliance with COVID-19 restrictions, which means that the players will have to live, train and play in a biosecure bubble. Talking about life in the bubble, he remarked, “I think it is something that we have to accept. We players take great care of ourselves and now even more with COVID. It is very hard to be locked up in a hotel for 5 months without leaving. Mentally it gets tough and I hope it's the last year.”

As the competition continues to be held in a familiar location - Goa - behind closed doors, fans will continue to cheer on from the comfort of their homes, but Gonzalez revealed absence of supporters greatly affects the atmosphere within the stadium. “Football is not the same without fans. We hope that you can soon be cheering us on and celebrating victories with us,” he said.

Discussing individual targets ahead of the upcoming season, the defender quipped, “My goal is always to help the team wherever it is. If it's playing better every minute, or even from the bench - I'll do that too.  My goal is the same as the team - that we all have a good season.”

FC Goa will take on defending champions Mumbai City FC in a cracking season opener on 22nd November, as the Gaurs will look to avenge the playoffs’ heartbreak from last season and start their domestic campaign on a strong note.