Going to be very special for me: FC Goa's Carlos Pena on his return to Fatorda

FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena said he is looking forward to returning to the Fatorda Stadium and that it was going to be a special occasion for him, as FC Goa host Jamshedpur FC in the Hero ISL Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Goa, on Thursday. 

Pena played the last match of his professional career at the Fatorda Stadium during the Hero ISL 2019-20 season, and now, he returns back to Goa, this time as head coach of the Gaurs.  

FC Goa suffered their first defeat of the Hero ISL 2022-23 campaign against Hyderabad FC in their previous fixture, but Pena remains firm on how complete his team can be, and that morale of the team is high despite the loss.

The Spaniard spoke about what difference the home crowd can make ahead of FC Goa’s first home game of the season, his team’s mindset, and more, in the pre-match press conference. 

Here are the excerpts:

After the last match, you got the team together and said that it was okay to lose. What were the exact thoughts after the loss?

I got the team together and told the team that it was alright, as in this sport, we win some and lose some. I expressed to the boys and was proud of their performance, but not happy as we lost the game.

This was the way I wanted the team to perform, they were organized and created chances. We tried to get at least a point, but the players showed fight. It is the past now, and we have to learn from the game.

Are there any updates on the injury to goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh? Can we expect him to play against Jamshedpur FC?

I am very happy with all my goalkeepers. The decision about Dheeraj Singh will be made on Thursday, as I have to talk with the player first.

Jamshedpur FC lost their star player and league winning coach. What are your thoughts on their performance this season?

They have changed the coach; they have lost some key players, but they have maintained the core of the team. It is a mixture of experience and strong characters in the Jamshedpur FC squad, and they are good on set-pieces which helped them win the shield last season, which is very important. We respect the opposition and will be in our best shape to face them on Thursday.

Compared to what you have experienced in Spain, how big of an impact does the home crowd have in India?

Here in India, the matchday is a party and a festival. The fans are eagerly waiting for the matchday with the jerseys on, and I feel it might be so because there are fewer games in the Hero ISL as compared to the European leagues. The main purpose of the fans is to make the home stadium a fortress and to make the opponents feel that it is tough to play here in Goa. The support of the fans is very important.

How differently will you approach the game against Jamshedpur FC than the ones you have previously played?

The idea is always the same. We will keep playing our style of football, but you have to keep in mind the different aspects and should have thorough knowledge about the opponent and the quality they possess. Every opponent has some strengths and weaknesses, either you learn from that or you take advantage. On Thursday, the boys know they have to focus and keep their minds in the game for 90 minutes.

Alvaro Vazquez missed the penalty in the last game which could have given your team a point or at least a result. What is the morale of the player and the team after the events that happened in the last game?

He (Alvaro) was sad after missing the decisive penalty. But, he has the experience along with my trust and belief which. Players do make mistakes, they try and fail, but they also learn from that and Alvaro is nothing different. He is working hard and will keep scoring many goals for FC Goa in the future.

Jamshedpur FC earned their first win of the season in the previous game, whereas your team is coming off a loss. How do you assess this situation?

Jamshedpur FC are coming off a draw and a win in the last two games, so they will be confident. Our situation was quite similar before losing our previous game, so it evens out the problem, and the contest will be equally tough for both sides. It is important for us to show character and team spirit after coming from a loss and show them (Jamshedpur FC) the team that we are.

The last time FC Goa played in front of the fans, you were in the team, and now you are the head coach. So, how excited are you to play again in front of the home crowd after a long lay-off?

It is going to be very special for me, and I did not think I would come back so soon with this team. I will try to enjoy the game as much as possible and will expect the same from our fans while they keep cheering for us from the stands. I am very excited for the game on Thursday.

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