After eye-catching AFC Champions League campaign, Ferrando speaks of his obsession, the Hero ISL trophy

Two-time Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) finalists FC Goa gave a good account of themselves in their maiden AFC Champions League campaign recently. They couldn’t win a single game and failed to advance to the next stage but their performance caught the eye on many occasions. For example, they could have won against Al Rayyan SC in their penultimate Group E (West Region) encounter but the Qatari club equalised in the 89th minute of the game to break their hearts. A couple of matches earlier, they had taken the lead in a stunning manner against two-time finalists Persepolis FC before eventually going down 2-1.

In light of their inexperience, three draws and three defeats in the most competitive club competition in Asia is not a bad result. In an interview to Deccan Herald, Gaurs head coach Juan Ferrando spoke of expectations in the lead-up to the group stage and what his team has managed to achieve.

“Everyone thought FC Goa would lose 4-0, 5-0 in Asia. But if everyone works as a team, you have a chance. If there is a good plan, we can try. In Asia, the challenge was to be focused for 90 minutes …One detail and if you are not ready to do your job, it's an opportunity for the opponent,” the Spaniard said.

A major positive for FC Goa since Ferrando’s arrival -- ahead of Hero ISL 2020-21 -- has been the encouraging development of young players like Sanson Pereira, Princeton Rebello, Saviour Gama, Makan Chothe, Ishan Pandita and Devendra Murgaokar. “We knew what football we wanted to play. [We wanted] someone who can bring in a similar style plus tighten defensively. We wanted someone with a predisposition for playing young players, particularly in a year where we wanted to push youngsters and see if they can go to the next level,” explained Ravi Puskur, FC Goa’s Director of Football, in regard to why they decided to hire Ferrando.

With many of their key players departing ahead of Hero ISL 2020-21, Ferrando was tasked with rebuilding the team and did really well as the Gaurs reached their sixth semi-finals where they lost to eventual champions Mumbai City FC on penalties. Talking about his early days at the club, he said: “When I came to FC Goa, it was necessary to change. In Europe, you come to training, do some exercise, watch the video and then go for training. Here it is necessary to put the video, explain why it is important to do the drill. It's not a problem, I had to adjust so that the players understand and learn to read the game.

“It's also why we are able to change players and put in youngsters without losing tactical discipline because they understand [what we are trying to do]. Romario [Alexander Jesuraj] is in the team and then we put Chothe or Redeem [Tlang], it's not a problem in terms of the plan. Of course, Redeem has more dribbling and Romario fights for the second balls better. More or less everyone is at the same level in the team. Coach is like a teacher here. Elsewhere it is not so.”

With the season finally behind them, the focus for Ferrando, in his own words, will now be to win his first silverware with the club, especially the coveted Hero ISL trophy which the Gaurs haven’t been able to win so far despite having been one of the powerhouses of the league since its inception. “Whether you are in Greece and getting promoted or in Moldova trying to get into the group stage, the thought is always to improve. We need to improve a lot. I don't think this is the maximum level, we can get better. The club is at 14 percent [of its potential]. ATK Mohun Bagan and Mumbai City FC are on another level, but FC Goa is the best for me. Good players, a good team, people who work in the club, and the best supporters. It's a dream to win the league. This is my obsession,” Ferrando said.


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