Ravi Puskur, the Director of Football at ISL club FC Goa spoke about the decisions of the club last season, player signings & future.
- Sacking Sergio Lobera was the best decision at that time
- Getting out of AFC Champions League group stage will be a tough task for FC Goa
- What does a Director of Football do?
FC Goa are a club that dreams big. Unlike other entities in Indian football, they work constructively to ensure that they fulfill their aspirations. The Gaurs boast of one of the best footballing structures in the country, with a youth setup that comprises of rich bundles of talent. Their brand of football is certainly exemplary and they have given a stage to several young Indian players to perform and excel.
This isn’t a sudden occurence though. It’s a long process lasting over three years since that fateful, disappointing campaign of 2016. All of it wouldn’t have been possible without their Director of Football, Ravi Puskur. The Staffordshire University alumnus has been part of Goa’s setup for almost five years now, albeit in different roles and responsibilities.
Though he took up the role of the DoF only last year, Puskur had been involved with first-team operations ever since the commencement of the fourth season. He was pivotal in bringing the Serio Lobera-era to FC Goa and is now overseeing the transition post the Spaniard’s dismissal.
“Back then, the challenge was to establish an identity as a club; to figure out a playing style, which we did. We then went on to recruit the coaches and the playing staff to ensure that the squad continues to be strong,” said the man in-charge of FC Goa’s fortunes. “Then ofcourse, we mounted a challenge in the fourth season when nobody expected us to be up there! We were the dark-horses, no-one had heard of the names of the players that we had brought in. If you look around now, they are possibly some of the most household names in the ISL.”
However, the overall concept of having a DoF is somewhat new in Indian football. There have been clubs with people in-charge of handling the transfer activities and being the reporting manager of sorts to the head coach. But, this role hasn’t been defined yet by many teams. “I am responsible for all the aspects of the footballing elements on the pitch and off the pitch. That includes the recruitment of players for the first-team, the recruitment of the coaching staff, the coach itself,” Puskur explained.
Despite all the recognition that they have received in recent times, FC Goa’s cabinet still lacks the coveted ISL trophy. They narrowly missed out on qualifying for the final last time around, but achieved a feat that most other clubs would have craved for throughout the course of the campaign.
“Look, the Champions League is a deep ocean that we are going to be diving into,” he affirmed, making it clear that the road ahead is going to be quite challenging. Shedding light on the same, he continued, “The quality and the entire tenacity of the game there is quite high. We expect a tough challenge ofcourse, in both home and away games.”
Regardless of that, another factor could potentially trouble Goa’s chances in the wake of the ongoing situation. “Moreover, we have this uncertainty due to the entire pandemic that surrounds us right now. One of our great assets is the home fans and if there was a situation where we would have to play without the home fans, that changes the equation completely for us.”
The DoF is cautious of their opponents in the group stage. He certainly understands the level of football that they would be required to pull off in the AFC Champions League. “We are trying to put our best foot forward. We would love to get out of the group, but I think that would be a tall order given that the teams that we would be facing would be right up there in terms of quality and spending power as well,” he claimed.
However, before one jumps to the upcoming campaign, it is interesting to ponder upon some of the decisions taken by FC Goa last season. The most remarkable of them all was, to part ways with Sergio Lobera and his coaching staff in late January. It was perhaps the most startling move that happened during the duration of the season and has left the followers of the game bewildered to date.
Ravi Puskur, who had a vital role in this call was quizzed about the same and he replied, “Well, it was not an easy decision to take. We knew the sort of response and feedback that we would be getting; not just from the fans, but with all the stakeholders involved in the game and everybody who was watching the season with interest.”
Furthermore, he elaborated, “Given how things were playing out and given how we always try to prepare for the future, I felt that at that point in time it was the best decision for us to take. It was not something that was decided overnight.”
He added, “We thought long and hard about it before doing what we had to do. But ultimately, I think we didn’t suffer for it because we ended up playing in the Champions League, which was our primary target at the start of the season anyway.”
Moving on, the DoF put faith in Juan Ferrando to take forward the work and the foundation that has been laid by the club. He sounded confident of the promise that Ferrando carries in terms of promoting the younger talents at the club. It is apparently an approach that Ravi Puskur believes to be resonating with FC Goa’s aspirations of building a bridge between the youth system and the first-team, to offer more playing time to players coming through the ranks.
“It’s very important that we play a similar if not the exact style of football. We have always been a team that takes initiative on the pitch, try and play an aggressive brand of football. Ultimately, we believe that the fans in Goa are very knowledgeable. They like to watch good football. They don’t prioritize results over the style of play. When they come there, they want full value of their money and we as a club strive to provide that.”
However, this wouldn’t have been possible without players like Ahmed Jahouh, Mourtada Fall, Mandar Rao Dessai and Jackichand Singh who have been so crucial to the team’s fortunes in the last few years. However, all of them are set to join other franchises ahead of the next season. How do FC Goa view this situation, at a time when a palpable sense of anguish is prevalent among their fans?
“There are some names who would be leaving, but I am confident that we are working well in the market to adequately replace them,” Ravi Puskur assured. He clarified that a new set of foreign players would be brought in, while talented youth team players would also be given a chance to replace the outbound Indian players.
He reminded that the likes of Jahouh, Fall, Hugo Boumous and Ferran Corominas weren’t household names when they joined FC Goa. “As a club we need to move on as well because the players have moved on. I am sure we will be able to bring in adequate replacements to match the qualities that these players brought to the club, if not improve it,” he opined.
“The club culture demands us to always compete for results and we will continue doing that, irrespective of which players are in the squad and which players are not,” the DoF guaranteed casting aside any doubts regarding the ambitions that FC Goa hold. “That’s what the club is there for, to try and compete for trophies and challenge for all the titles possible,” Ravi Puskur stated.
The upcoming campaign would see them embarking on a tremendous journey with the AFC Champions League and a possible shot at the ISL title again. Regardless of the changes that have occurred in the setup, it is this optimistic philosophy of the club that will keep their ship sailing through the testing times that possibly await them.