Lobera: Impossible to win trophies without quality Indian players

FC Goa kickstart their Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 campaign at home at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium against a familiar foe in Chennaiyin FC. The two sides have an exciting history against each other and the fixture itself is the highest-scoring tie in league’s history with 45 goals. The last time these two teams met was also another exciting game in the Hero Super Cup 2019 final and Wednesday’s clash between the two promises to be no different.

“I am very excited. The pre-season was hard work and I think all the players, club, staff and fans can’t wait to get started with the season. The preparation before the opening game of the season has been good and the players will go into the match in very good condition. They are very good professionals and I am very happy with the pre-season that we had. But the most important thing is the first match and hopefully we can play a good game and get three points,” FC Goa head coach Sergio Lobera told reporters at the pre-match press conference.

The Spaniard admitted that he was happy with the adulation his team’s brand of play receives and insisted that the philosophy won’t change. "I am very happy that everybody always speaks about Goa’s exciting style of football. To win the respect of the people is our biggest prize. I think we have a strong philosophy and style, which I don’t feel needs to change. It’s important to learn through our mistakes and I think my second season compared to the first saw lots of improvement by the team from the defensive aspect. And I think it’s important to improve from our last two seasons,” he opined.

Lobera also underlined the need to possess talented domestic players to challenge for top honours. “For me, the performance of the Indian players is the most important. We always speak about the foreign players, but I think it’s very important to have talented Indian players. There have to be five foreign players in the first XI, which is why it’s imperative to improve the level of Indian players. For me, it’s impossible to win trophies without quality Indian players,” he said.

“But I am very happy with the likes of Mandar Rao Dessai in my team who is now a part of the national team. I am happy with his success and now we have, I think, three players in the national team. However, I feel more players from my side can break into the national side. Having young Indian players is very important and we plan on using some more Indian youngsters this season,” Lobera added.

Mandar Rao Dessai benefitted under Lobera’s tutelage after his performances for the Gaurs last season propelled him to the national setup. “The coach told me at the start of last year that I had to play as a left-back and I embraced the challenge. He told me that you will have a good chance to play as a left-back in the national team, but I never thought I would play for India as a left-back. I was always a winger but when the call-up came from the national side and they told me I would play as a left-back, I was happy because the coach believed in me and so did I. But the coach trusted me a lot to give me this position,” Dessai, who accompanied Lobera to the press conference, stated.

Dessai also elaborated on how he has gelled with the team this season after having been away on national duty for a long time. “Whenever I played for FC Goa, I gave my best. I knew I would also have national duty, but I have trained with my teammates when I was available as well. I trained with them, gave my 100 per cent and even played two pre-season matches with them before joining the national team. Now I am with FC Goa again and ready to give my 100 per cent."

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