Last season, FC Goa’s final league stage match in the Indian Super League (ISL) saw them rock out at Jamshedpur knowing that a victory would guarantee them a first place and thereby become the first Indian team in qualify for the group stage of the AFC Champions League proper
And they went to FC Goa in Jamshedpur.
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Hugo Boumous and Ferran Corominas combined for the latter to score first. Boumous added a second. He teamed up with Ahmed Jahouh to free Jackichand Singh for a third. He then spent it with Edu Bedia and Carlos Pena before teeing off Mourtado Fall for an emphatic fourth. Boumous himself then ended it all with a flourish, a sublime ending after a quick pitch from Mandar Rao Dessai.
5-0. A suitable Goa marker.
That it came just two games after the removal of former coach Sergio Lobera, the man who defined to the ISL what this Goa team was all about (goals, fun, more goals), was a statement. They didn’t need the man. They were ready. This was a team where everyone came together.
Then the drainage began.
Of the players mentioned above, those who are an integral part of the team’s style, their performances, their results, only one remains this season. Edu Bedia.
Boumous, Jahouh, Fall and Dessai followed their old coach, Lobera, to form a super team at Mumbai City FC, funded by City Football Group. Coro, that extraordinary ISL record scorer, was not retained. Neither was Peña, so crucial to the team’s defensive organization. The core of a team that Goa had spent three years building … disappeared.
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A less prepared team would have been wiped out. But Goa is not that. Football director Ravi Puskur knew it was going to be difficult from the moment the decision was made to fire Lobera. “It was not a decision we wanted to make, but the relationship between the coach and the club was constantly eroding throughout the season. In the long term, we felt it was the best option for us.”
It was also prepared for the drain. “We knew [some players would move] out of loyalty to the previous coach, so it was not a surprise. We also felt that our team was getting a bit old, the average age of our foreigners was in their late 30s, so we wanted to freshen it up a bit. “
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But they tried to retain one person: the man who swept the league en route to 11 goals and 10 assists (with a goal contribution every 56 minutes!), Hugo Boumous. “We tried to retain Boumous, but he had a release clause built into his contract. It was a high clause, but the financial power of City …” he laughs.
And so, the moment the season ended, he went to work. The first task was to appoint a coach. After a careful investigation, they settled on Juan Ferrando, a young Spanish coach who had just led the unattractive Greek team Volos to two consecutive promotions. It was a man, according to Puskur, “on an upward curve”, and had “the hunger, desire and motivation” to match those of the club.
“Some things [about Ferrando] it really caught our attention. One, their active interest in wanting to participate and work with young people. Two, his management style, playing style. Three, the tactical breakthroughs he said he could bring to the team: he had studied our games and pointed out specific cases and approaches that could be taken to address them. “Puskur and the Goa administration were impressed. He had” taken on a low-budget club, two divisions up, with a restrictive salary. “So they were confident that he could find what they were looking for:” a competitive balance between winning and developing players at the same time. “
Then Puskur and Ferrando began to form a team.
They reached Igor Angulo, the top scorer in the Polish division the season before the previous one, and scorer of more than 160 goals for clubs in Spain, Cyprus, Greece and Poland. They scoured the Spanish lower divisions in search of the right players, and thus arrived Jorge Ortiz and Alberto Noguera, creative midfielders with an eye for goal and a strong desire to explore leagues outside their native Spain. They were joined by defender Iván González, a graduate of the Real Madrid quarry and a 12-year veteran in the lower categories of his country’s leagues. They even went to Spain and signed an Indian: Ishan Pandita, drunk and eaten by Ferrando, convinced by Puskur, a tempting talent. They also launched into the A-League talent search, signing James Donachie on loan from the Newcastle Jets.
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As Puskur says, this was all a deliberate strategy. Noguera and Oritz to replace Boumous and Jahouh. Angle by Chorus. González for Peña and Donachie for Autumn. For the most part, the replacements are younger. “All foreigners, except Angulo, are 30 years old or younger. We have renewed our equipment and that will help us build for the next 3-4 years. They can offer experience, while at the same time providing consistent quality,” he says. Puskur.
They also got young and exciting in their search for Indian talent, hiring Redeem Tlang, Phrangki Buam, and Makan Winkle Chothe.
And Puskur wasn’t kidding about the emphasis on development. They have, and this is quite surprising, 14 Goans on the team. That’s almost half the team (that’s 30). The most exciting prospect of all? Princeton Rebello. Beware the.
Clifford Miranda, the interim coach after Lobera’s departure, was retained as Ferrando’s assistant and has spent the entire offseason coordinating with local talents. His preseason began long before Ferrando was allowed to fly (after the central government lifted travel restrictions), with Miranda relaying comments to Ferrando and the two working out, in detail, what to do on a daily basis.
However, whatever they do, Puskur says they will continue to play FC Goa style.
“We have a specific style of football that we want our team to play in. That’s why we hired Sergio [Lobera]. At the time, it was about establishing it. Now juan [Ferrando]The responsibility is to consolidate it. Tighten the screws a bit, organize a little more defensively without compromising the attack. We are clear that when FC Goa comes out to play, we are going to dominate. That’s what we do, that’s what we want to do. “
Over the summer, Puskur and Ferrando have built a new team, a team of “28-30 moving pieces that must move in an ideal puzzle that will define success,” a team they trust will be able to defend their league’s shield.
By necessity and by design, FC Goa is in the midst of a revolution and by all indications it will be a fun ride.