Puskur: FC Goa not at a disadvantage because of new ‘four foreigners’ rule

FC Goa director of football Ravi Puskur does not believe that the new Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) regulation of ‘seven Indians and four foreigners’ is going to affect the club in any way. The Gaurs have been historically reliant on their foreign signings, and many fear that the reduction in the number of foreign players on the pitch ahead of the 2021-22 season can bring them down as a team.

“I don’t see it as a disadvantage for us next season because we have a very good spine. We have multiple options now on the pitch. We should be fine. An example of this was in the AFC Champions League, which was a great testing ground for us against extremely high-quality opposition. A large majority of the squad who competed in the ACL will be with us next season. We can only get stronger. We are not worried that we will have four foreigners on the pitch. We will have two foreigners on the bench next season, a luxury which we didn’t have last season or in the ACL,” Puskur told the Times of India.

In the 2020-21 Hero ISL season, the Gaurs, under Juan Ferrando, reached the semi-finals where they lost to eventual champions Mumbai City FC on penalties. Puskur is happy with the way his team played but thinks they could have done better in matters concerning the ‘eventual’ result, especially after going on a 15-game unbeaten run. “If you look at how we began last season, we did well with a brand-new team. Given how we progressed, there was some sense of unfulfillment. We lost a game in December against Chennaiyin FC, which was our seventh game. To get knocked out despite being unbeaten is disappointing. Are we happy with our performance? Yes. Are we satisfied with the result? No,” he said.     

During the January transfer window, FC Goa brought in quite a few important players: Dheeraj Singh and Glan Martins from ATK Mohun Bagan, Adil Khan (on loan) and Amarjit Singh from Jamshedpur FC. Puskur explains why they went for these reinforcements. “A couple of them were forced. When Mohammed Nawaz told us that he wasn’t going to stay with us, we had to bring in someone who would be with us for the long term. Dheeraj stood out as an obvious candidate and showed plenty of interest in Goa. With Lenny [Rodrigues] wanting to move out, we brought in Glan. Adil helped us defensively and Amarjit was another option. We needed the reinforcements due to the AFC Champions League as well,” he said. 

On the question of how long he can ignore the absence of a quality domestic centre-back in the team, Puskur said: “I do realise in the past couple of seasons, we have gone in with foreign centre-backs, so there is some sense of doubt whether we have someone who can fill that space for the entire duration of the Hero ISL. We are in the market looking for good centre-backs but it’s not just us; everyone wants that kind of player and there are only a handful. To be fair to our players, we are asking them to do quite a lot. We are asking them to play a very risky game, pass the ball out from the back and that has an element of risk. I am confident in Juan. We have a coach who is keen on building those capabilities, rather than finding players from the market.”  

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