The FC Goa full-back impressed everyone with a string of good performances especially in the AFC Champions League.

Since signing with FC Goa in June 2020, Sanson Pereira has come a long way. The 23-year-old started in the Gaurs’ season opener against heavyweights Bengaluru FC and made three further substitute appearances during the course of the ISL campaign. However, his real chance came knocking in the AFC Champions league (ACL). Head coach Juan Ferrando trusted Sanson with a starting role and the left-back promptly delivered strong performances.

Six ACL appearances later, the young Indian is looking forward to improving on a strong debut season and making a mark in Indian football. In an exclusive interview with Khel Now, Sanson Pereira spoke on a host of topics, including his ACL campaign and future.

Salgaocar Roots

The 23-year-old started his career at Salgaocar, before switching to the Gaurs. “I was there for a number of years. That was the start of my career and I owe a lot to the club. They helped me nurture my talent and have played a big role in me becoming the player that I am today,” the full-back recollected.

From bench to pitch

In the ISL, Pereira made just four appearances but his true form was seen in the ACL

Pereira only started one ISL match before playing in all six games in the AFC Champions League for the Gaurs. His patience and effort was rewarded in due time.

“The coach always gave me confidence and to begin with, it was a case of me making the best of an opportunity. And, that is something every senior player told me throughout the season, that I have to wait for my opportunity. I think I did well to make the best of the opportunity I got,” he quipped.

The familiar & unfamiliar

FC Goa’s AFC Champions League experience was the first for any Indian club. “Well, it was a really tough tournament. The level of football was really high – the intensity of the games and the quality of our opponents was something we are not used to,” he opined.

Playing against the mightiest of Asia

Pereira was one of FC Goa’s standout performers in the AFC Champions League

Sanson Pereira also revealed which was the toughest game for the Gaurs in the AFC Champions League.

“I feel playing against Persepolis was the biggest challenge. They are a really good team and you can be up against the forward one time and then against the right-back the very next minute.

The best I came across was Omid Alishah,” he reminisced.

Tough learning curve of AFC Champions league

The full-back feels that the time spent preparing for and participating in the AFC Champions League helped develop the squad to a greater extent.

“The biggest thing we learnt is the need to play team football and how to play it. We learnt a lot regarding that. We also got to know the limits we can push ourselves to – personally and when we play as a team.”

The defensive duo

James Donachie and Ivan Gonzalez have been among the regular names on the team-sheet since the 2020-21 season started. Their presence was crucial for the Gaurs in both the ISL and the ACL campaigns.

“They are very experienced and that was vital to our performance. They not only have a big physical presence at the back but are also really good on the ball. We play out from the back. So, having them on the team was crucial. They also understand the needs of the coach and the philosophy we play with,” he quipped.

“For me, personally, they are very helpful. Their presence gave me more confidence to do what I do well. And they always help you, even if you make a mistake. You need that calming presence when you are on the pitch,” he added.

The next step

Pereira’s goals are clear – he wants to establish himself in the FC Goa lineup and wear the Indian jersey.

“I think I played well in the Champions League. That has given me a lot of confidence. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. I want to get better and become more consistent. My next target will be to become a regular starter at FC Goa and get into the national team,” he concluded.

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