Special for me to be in Goa again: Odisha FC's Sergio Lobera ahead of FC Goa clash
Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera is looking forward to his return to Goa as his side prepare to play against FC Goa on Saturday.
Odisha FC head coach Sergio Lobera is looking forward to his return to Goa as they prepare to play against FC Goa in their third match of the Indian Super League (ISL) Season 2023-24 at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Goa, on Saturday.
The Juggernauts began their campaign with a comfortable 2-0 win over Chennaiyin FC, followed by a thrilling draw against Lobera's other former club, Mumbai City FC. Having secured four points from their previous two fixtures, Odisha FC will take the field undefeated, hoping to continue their streak against FC Goa.
Lobera eagerly anticipates his return to Goa, the place where his Indian football journey began and where he enjoyed three remarkable years during his managerial career.
“I am very happy to be here. It is special for me to be in Goa again. I spent a lot of time here, with my family and have great memories, good memories. Now I am very happy coming back to India to be able to work in a club like Odisha FC. We are a family, we are people involved in football, spending a lot of time trying to improve every day. I am happy,” Lobera said in the pre-match press conference.
Before joining Mumbai City FC in 2020, Lobera was at the helm of FC Goa, leading them to success in the Super Cup during the 2018-19 season and the ISL Shield the following year. In his first season with MCFC, he managed to secure their first ISL Cup at the Fatorda Stadium shortly after winning their first ISL League Shield just a few days prior.
Recalling this experience, the Spaniard said, “I always want to win. Always. But the most special for me, the success in Goa, was to win the Shield and to win the ISL in Goa. But not with FC Goa, with Mumbai City FC. It was a very special time for me. Also, we achieved success in Goa. I am very proud of the work of my players and everyone involved in the club because we achieved something important during this period. And now my focus is to achieve the same with my team, Odisha FC. We know it will be a difficult game tomorrow (on Saturday), but we are excited to get three points and to continue working in the best ways possible in ISL.”
The Juggernauts are coming off a defeat in the AFC Cup and would be eager to return to their winning ways on Saturday. Lobera acknowledged the difficulty of the task at hand and expressed his desire to return with all three points from the fixture. He said: “Always when you are playing against teams like FC Goa, you know you are playing against a very good team. They build a winning team and the expectations from FC Goa this season in the competition are so high."
"It's a good opponent because I think Manolo Marquez shows everyone they want to play attacking football and we are also trying to play attacking football. And maybe it's good for the supporters to watch the game tomorrow (on Saturday) and hopefully, the people who are watching the game, it's possible to enjoy this game. And hopefully, I can enjoy after the game getting three points also. But I think it will be a very good game because we are going to play against a very good team and a very good coach," Lobera added.
Star forward Roy Krishna joined Lobera for the pre-match press conference. When asked about his observations on the growth of football in India, the veteran shared, “You can see when I first came, compared to now, it's growing rapidly. Every season is tougher and I think this season will be more tougher with the teams, with the players that have come in and especially the coaches that have come back to ISL. So, you know, yes, in terms of the growth of Indian football, you can see a lot of young players now starting in big clubs. So that's a positive sign. And yeah, I think the future of Indian football is looking great, but still a lot of work to be done.”
Reflecting on Lobera's significant role in persuading Krishna to join Odisha FC, the Fiji international further commented, “As a player, you need the love and the mindset of a coach, what he wants you to play or play a role in a team. Speaking to him, of course, I admire him when he was with FC Goa and Mumbai City FC and the way he plays. I love that and I think under him I can improve my football and knowledge about football. So that was the big key point for me to come to Odisha FC.”