FC Goa head coach Derrick Pereira remained confident of his team giving their 100% on the pitch despite facing several injury concerns and COVID-19 cases, ahead of his side’s clash against league leaders Hyderabad FC in Match 95 of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 season at the Athletic Stadium in Goa on Saturday.

Pereira admitted that it was demanding for him to prepare his team for the matches with respect to the bio-bubble, the injuries, and the COVID-19 cases in the camp. FC Goa are placed ninth in the league table with 18 points in 17 games, and still have a slim, mathematical chance of qualifying for the semi-finals.

The Gaurs head coach along with defender Anwar Ali attended the official pre-match press conference ahead of their game against Hyderabad FC.

Here are the excerpts from the coach’s press conference:

With three matches yet to be played, mathematically it’s still possible for FC Goa to qualify. So how do you approach the remaining three matches?

Pereira: It’s tough now. In fact, we have to just play for pride I feel and just, you know, go with that same intention, to do well and get the best results. There are such situations in this bubble where it is exceedingly difficult to prepare the team. For example, in the last match, we had COVID-19 cases just two days before the match and we couldn’t train the day before the match which was very important to us. We didn’t know our first playing XI till we reached our dressing room.

We could not prepare the team and I’m not giving any excuses but this is the reality. Even today morning we had a couple of positive cases and we are not sure what will happen. These are the things which are hampering our performance as well as our results. But I’m happy with our players, there are players who are playing with injuries and there are others who are just coming out of isolation, so it’s a difficult task right now. We will put our best foot forward and I’m sure the team will give their 100% in each of the remaining matches.  

How has the team managed to stay positive this season despite all the setbacks?

Pereira: There's no point in looking back at all that’s happened. Now we are looking only towards the future, as I said earlier, we are in the process of building a team for the future, so there are a lot of youngsters who deserve to get into the team, who will get the opportunity to perform.

When I was watching matches from outside, I had a different perspective than what I have now. What I’m currently experiencing in the bubble, I can understand what was going, what is going through, all the team officials, players, and it’s really tough right now.

Considering FC Goa’s season till now, do you think FC Goa lacked squad depth?

Pereira: I don’t think so, I mean, there were incidents where we could’ve made some changes here and there, but till date I’m saying that we are one of the best teams. Somehow everybody knows why we are at the bottom position of the league table. So, I don’t want to keep repeating those reasons but we have a team that can challenge teams who are on top right now.

Here are the excerpts from the player’s press conference:

It’s your first season in the ISL, how much are you enjoying firstly, getting back into the game and secondly, how do you assess your first season?

Ali: It was a long journey for me to join ISL because I was waiting for a long time and I’m glad that I got the chance to play in the starting XI when I got transferred to FC Goa. I’m glad to be a part of this team and I’m giving my best in every match.

Sometimes, I know players face problems and things can’t go their way but I will give my best in the remaining matches and want to improve myself through each game.

Knowing that FC Goa have a miniscule chance of qualifying for the semi-finals, how do you approach or how do you think the players will approach the remaining three matches? Is it difficult to keep motivating yourself?

Ali: Yes, it’s difficult because we are very disappointed about the results in this season. But we still have three more games to go and we will go with all our heart because if we win, it will be beneficial for us and we can return home with a good spirit with the focus on the next season.