The Gaurs begin their campaign against Mumbai City FC on November 22.

Ivan Gonzalez was a rock at the back for FC Goa last season. On the other hand, Indian football saw the introduction of a midfielder, who showed a glimpse of his abilities when he scored a long ranger against Mumbai City FC, Glan Martins.

Both Gonzalez and Martins played crucial roles run to the playoffs last season. Martins, who arrived from ATK Mohun Bagan last January, made the holding midfield role his own by playing as an enforcer. The pair also impressed in the AFC Champions League group stages for FC Goa.

Ivan Gonzalez and Glan Martins interacted to the press recently ahead of the start of Indian Super League 2021-22 season.

Squad strength this season

The Gaurs have retained almost their entire squad from last season. A few departures and a few inclusions have made the outfit look even better than last season, on paper.

“I think we will take this from where we stopped last season in the ISL. We will start in a positive way and since we are together since last year, it’s good for us. We understand each other much better now. Yes, we are a stronger team this year,” claimed Glan Martins.

Ivan Gonzalez’s opinion too, was somewhat similar to that of Martins’. “I think we have 90% of the players from last season. This is a good thing for all of us because it provides confidence. This is very good for our team this season,” the 31-year-old said.

Extending unbeaten run

FC Goa ended the last season unbeaten in 15 matches, with the semi-final defeat to Mumbai City coming via a penalty shootout. The record itself is enough to motivate the team.

“All the players know what’s the main motto of this team. Yes, we know that we are 15-matches unbeaten. We will just try to give our best and maintain the streak and go forward. We will take one match at a time,” Martins stated.

How national team exposure helped Glan Martins

On the back of a successful season for FC Goa, Martins made his debut for the national team during the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers. When asked how he benefitted from the exposure in the national team, the midfielder said, “I think I have learned a lot of things from the time I’ve come here (FC Goa). I think everything has changed since I’ve come here.”

“In the few months, I got to play a lot of matches. Then I got the national team call also. I think now I feel I have more confidence in myself than before and I think I can deliver much better this season. I am just waiting for the season to start now,” he opined.

Competition in the team

Ivan Gonzalez enjoyed a good season for FC Goa in the previous campaign with James Donachie by his side at the heart of the defence. With the number of on-field foreigners now reduced to just four, Gonzalez has competition in the form of Dylan Fox. When asked if the competition will be high for him this time to get into the starting XI, the Spaniard felt it is the decision of the head coach.

“It is the decision of the coach. FC Goa now has me and Dylan (Fox). He had a very good season last time and he is very good for the team. Now it is the coach’s decision. Now there is one less foreigner inside the pitch. This team has very good Indian players. We have young players, who have improved a lot from last season and it’s a good thing for us,” he quipped.

Feeling at home in FC Goa

Glan Martins joined FC Goa from ATK Mohun Bagan, where he didn’t receive enough game time. When asked about the difference between the two sides, Martins stated, “The day I came here (FC Goa), I felt like home. I felt very comfortable with everyone. I met so many Goan players. At ATK Mohun Bagan, I was only Goan player. But even the players there were very friendly and were all good to me.

“Here I started getting the game time which was much more important for me to push my confidence which was lacking in ATK Mohun Bagan. I was just a bit scared. But the time I came here, the coach, the foreigners and even the Indians helped me a lot. They welcomed me really well.”

Improving in set-piece situations

FC Goa conceded many goals from set-pieces in the 2020-21 season. When asked about this, Ivan Gonzalez commented, “We are worried about this because we know what happened last season. But you cannot control these things. You have to train a lot, stay focused in this section. We need to improve set-pieces.

“You cannot worry about this because it depends upon the game, whether you are a man down and a lot of things. You need to put your focus on set-pieces. Maybe that will not happen like last season but you cannot control these things,” he answered.

Youngsters looking up to Glan Martins

Glan Martins, although he signed only a few months back at FC Goa, is already among the senior players in the squad. Youngsters look up to him. When asked if he has undergone a change in attitude towards everyday training, the 27-year-old claimed positively.

“Yes, I think compared to last season, I am much more matured player this season because I got to learn a lot of things. Last season was my first season at the ISL and the national team also. I think this season I am a much improved player and I want to improve more,” he declared.

“Yes, there are youngsters also looking upon me, even in my team also. I want to help them as much as I can since my seniors also helped me a lot; I will do the same to the youngsters,” he said.

Leading by example

Ivan Gonzalez is someone who has plied his trade in Spain and is relatively new to Indian football. He feels there is a lot of difference between Indian and Spanish football.

”Yes, there is a lot of difference. In Spain, maybe the game is more controlled and more tactical. Last 10 years for me was everything tactical and now here it’s different. It’s funny. But sometimes we need to take up,” he felt.

“FC Goa has good timing with the ball, we play very good football similar to what we played in Spain. This is easier for me. But at times, I have to defend because in Spain every time in playing defence, you have five to six players close to you but here it is a lot of time one to one, two to one, two to two,” he explained.

Ivan Gonzalez is also one of the captains this season along with Edua Bedia, Brandon Fernandes and Seriton Fernandes. He explains his role towards the Indian defenders and also states that it is a big responsibility to be the captain.

“Last season I was one of the four captains and it was my first time here. I earned the confidence of the coach I am playing right now. My mentality is to lead by example. I am here to push my teammates and help them and enjoy with the team,” he concluded.

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