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From cellar dwellers to title contenders: Dissecting FC Goa's ressurection in ISL 4

Written by: Ravish R Narvekar

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The Gaurs endured a forgettable season last time around when everything that could go wrong, did. But, they are back to their old selves.

The history of Goan football dates back to 1883 when an Irish Priest, Reverent Fr. William Robert Lyons introduced the sport in the curriculum of Christian education. As the popularity of football began to grow, just before the liberation, The Goa Football Association (GFA) was formed in 1959. Soon, the GFA hosted tournaments like the All India Bandodkar Gold Cup, Santosh Trophy, and so on. Goa's dominance in Indian football can be gauged from giant clubs like Salgaocar FC, Churchill Brothers, Dempo Sports Club, Sporting Clube De Goa, Vasco Sports Club and others.

For the last three years, one more name has been added to that list and that name is "FC Goa".  FC Goa had a decent first two seasons in the ISL. They were semi-finalists in the first edition of the league in 2014. The following season, they reached the final, but couldn’t get their hands on the trophy as they lost to Chennaiyin FC in front of their home crowd in the dying minutes. The match ended in a lot of controversies.

Soon after the season ended, Goa faced an ownership saga, when previous owners, Dattaraj Salgaocar and Shrinivas Dempo had to leave and were replaced by the new owner Jaydev Mody. However, the management change led to unnecessary wastage of time and Goa lost few of their key players in the following transfer window.

In hindsight, it was a season doomed for failure from the getgo and so it was little surprise when the Gaurs finished comfortably bottom of what was then an 8-team extravaganza. The aftermath of that disastrous campaign saw Brazilian legend Zico bring an end to his time as the club's head coach, a mixed bag of a spell that lasted all of three seasons.

Zico spell as coach came to an acrimonious end last season

However, this season Goa looked sharper and started their season shopping quite early with the early signing of India's one of the most experienced coach, Derrick Pereira, as team's assistant coach. Soon, Sergio Lobera, a former Barcelona academy youth coach, was signed by Goa as their new head coach. As a newly appointed coach, he said, 'I just don't want to win but I want to play attractive football, so that fans go home happily', which impressed the management and boosted entire squads morale including his coaching staffs.

Whereas, former head coach, Arthur Antunes Coimbra aka 'Zico' was busy giving excuses after every defeat they suffered in the last season, where he also blamed match referees on numerous occasions to hide team's inconsistency and poor performances. Right from the beginning of the season, Zico's attitude towards the season was very lethargic and he took the entire campaign very lightly. After losing 5-1 bashing at the hands of Delhi Dynamos in the second last game of ISL served further embarrassment in an already disappointing Indian Super League campaign for last year's losing finalists. Furious Zico slammed the Gaurs and made a statement saying, 'FC Goa should not have participated at all'.

Zico failed big-time when it came to the signing of the international players, he chose to give preference to the players from his home country, Brazil. The players like Lucio, Reinaldo Oliviera, Rafael Dumas, and Richarlyson, which Zico bought, were all famous, but out of shape, who couldn't perform on the stage of ISL due to their lack of form.

Lobera, on the other hand, took a more practical approach and brought players who were fully unknown to the Indian football but had more potential and dedication to the game, unlike Zico's signings. Lobero bought players like Ferran Corominas, Manuel Lanzarote, Manuel Arana, Eduardo Bedia, Ahmed Jahouh, Adrian Colunga, etc. Also, he made a smart decision of including assistant coach Pereira to sign domestic players from the draft.

Speaking about the pre-season, Zico took the entire team to Brazil and made them play against the lowest divisions’ team in the country. Low on morale, FC Goa started their 2016 pre-season with a defeat against a Brazilian club, Bangu AC and managed to snatch a single win in entire pre-season. It was a narrow win against the CF Flamengo, who played their reserve players.

FC Goa under Lobera has the best attack in the league 

Head Coach Lobera did something similar and took Goa to Spain where they played against the more competitive teams than they played in Brazil in the last pre-season. After losing their first two games against FC Cartagena and Real Murcia CF, they managed to grab victories against Deportivo Minera, CD Algar Deportivo and FC Cartagena B which lifted the spirit of the Gaurs before returning to India. After returning, he made another wise decision by playing against the I-League teams like East Bengal, Mohan Bagan, and Chennai City FC, where he mostly fielded domestic players to test their calibre.


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Currently, the Gaurs are standing fourth in the table with 19 points to their name, two less than table topper Bengaluru FC. However, they have a match in hand and that means the Guars have the chance to replace former I-League champions at the top. They opened their campaign with 3-2 win over Chennaiyin followed by a defeat to Mumbai City FC. Then came the goals fest for the Guars as they scored 14 goals in their next three games beating Bengaluru FC, Kerela Blaster, and Delhi Dynamos.

Goa's journey also travelled through rough patches where they lost to FC Pune City at home, followed by a 1-1 draw in Kolkata and shocking defeat against NorthEast United in Guwahati.

However, the Guars have got back on track after dropping eight points in three matches as they have registered two back-to-back victories against Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters in the last two matches.

 Their star striker, Coro is in magnificent form who has scored 10 goals and is the strong contender for the Golden Boot Award. Whereas other international players like Lanzarote, Bedia, and Jahouh along with local lads, Mandar Desai and Brandon Fernandes are equally contributing towards club's success.

No doubt, Zico is one of the greatest coaches in the world of football, but he was not able to mark his stamp on ISL. Whereas, Lobera is still young and yet to make his name as a coach, did a brilliant job by making necessary changes in the system and the squad, to bring the Gaurs THE success they deserve.

 

Published: Sat Jan 27, 2018 07:27 PM IST

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