The President of FC Goa spoke about the club’s plans for the next season, development of Indian football and more.

Indian football is currently going through the off-season amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the resultant lockdown. Meanwhile, various clubs are racking their brains on how to find the ideal team combinations to do well in the upcoming 2020-21 season. Most clubs have already started announcing their new signings and latest contract extensions and Indian Super League (ISL) outfit FC Goa is one of them. On Saturday, the club’s President Akshay Tandon spoke about their plans for the upcoming season, in the latest episode of ISL’s ‘Let’s Football Live’ Instagram chat show hosted by television presenter and commentator Anant Tyagi.

“This (being FC Goa’s President and getting involved in all of the club’s activities) is a 24×7 job,” Akshay Tandon began. “Because of the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, we have been doing more of just waiting and watching, while making changes internally so as to adjust to this new normal. Hopefully, our efforts will bear the fruit soon.”

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The 34-year-old further added that they are close to completing all of their signings for this summer. “We are very close to finishing all of our signings. It is a matter of a few weeks. We know exactly who we are targeting, the negotiations have been on for a very long time. We can’t prematurely announce before all the final paperwork is done. I am looking forward to it. It is looking like a very strong squad to me. I don’t feel like we are going to miss something,” he said, while also stressing on the fact that one of their primary objectives is to develop local footballers.

Akshay Tandon continued to explain that, “We have learned a lot from Goan football and are focusing on developing Goan footballers. You can see that on the field and that is very intentional. There are players who we have found from village tournaments. We are still in the process of how we can find more from the system and work with the local clubs as well as represent the entire Goan identity and its beauty,” he continued. “We are playing the kind of football that we want to play. Goa is a place to enjoy yourselves and we wanted to represent that using our football.”

Upon asked about the various things that have gone right and wrong for FC Goa since his arrival, Tandon said that the club has been able to derive profits from transfers, which means that they have been successful in creating what is more or less a new market. He further added that the one thing that is bothering him till date, is the absence of a residential academy at the club.

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“We have managed to make some money out of transfers within Indian football. It is about creating a new market almost. Not much of selling and buying goes on in Indian football, it is mostly free transfers. Seeing these things come together is a positive sign. At the same time, if I were to choose one of the things that have not yet gone right for us, it would be our inability to set up a fully-functional residential academy yet. An academy was definitely a part of our initial goals but unfortunately, with the current COVID-19 situation going on, it has gotten sort-of pushed back.”

“But yes, I still think we are more or less on the right path. We do a lot of self-criticisms, but I will stop at that for the time being. One of our objectives was to get into the AFC Champions League in nine or 10 years, but we have managed to do that within six years since our formation,” he reminded the fans.

Anant Tyagi then asked Akshay Tandon about his objectives as far as the proposed academy was concerned, to which the latter opined that right now, it would be unfair to compare FC Goa to big European clubs although their plan is to become like them and develop good footballers on a consistent basis, at some time in the future. “These (Ajax and Benfica) are very large examples and we are still to get there now. For now, I would like to focus on examples like what Uruguay, Iceland and so on have done to develop young talents, as they follow a slightly more localized approach. The same approach would work in India, I believe,” he explained.

The Gaurs’ President also proved that he is more inclined to player development than roping in big-money signings, by revealing that he is totally supportive of the salary cap that currently prevails in the ISL. “According to me, a salary cap is very important. It is one of the good things that has been happening in the league,” he said. “Because of league rules like these, you are going to have fewer foreigners in the squad, which, in turn, means that more and more money is going towards developing Indian football.”

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“That is the direction in which we need to keep moving. If you remove the salary cap, we will be creating a big problem in the market of Indian players, which has not yet matured. Right now, there are probably about 300 Indian players who are getting paid in the ISL and I-League. In the next few years, we need to make that pool a lot larger as opposed to just spending more money on the highest levels at ISL.”

He further went on to add that, “If clubs have more money to spend, let it be towards infrastructure, creating new systems, building their own squads that will have more Indian players and so on. Creating a larger ecosystem rather than spending money on the first team, is what I feel may be the right direction for Indian football at this time.”

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Akshay Tandon concluded the chat by speaking about what he believes are FC Goa’s ideal goals for the upcoming season. “We plan to take it one game at a time, that is our strategy. It is an intimidating thing to put in front of you. We could surprise a few teams, no one really knows where we stand against the champions in Asia so far. We are going in with a positive attitude,” he signed off.

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