FC Goa are the champions of the 130th Durand Cup after a campaign with all kinds of ups and downs. The ISL side were the favourites to win the tournament and did not fail to deliver from start to finish. Extended finishes in the semi-finals and the finals had every fan’s heart in their throat.
FC Goa breezed through their group stage games as they secured 9 points out of 9. The bundles in 9 goals and conceded a solitary goal to Sudeva Delhi. That goal was Sudeva Delhi’s only goal of the campaign. Moving into the knockouts, Goa hit Delhi for 5 as they won the quarter-finals 5-1.
They faced fellow heavyweights Bengaluru FC in the semi-finals. Both the teams gave their best and did not fail to give a memorable performance. The game went into penalties after 120 minutes of play where FC Goa prevailed 7-6 during sudden death.
They faced Mohammedan Sporting in the finals in front of a massive crowd of nearly 34000+ fans. After a dry first half, Goa looked lively in the second half but did not manage to get the ball past the goal line. The game progressed into extra time and a textbook free-kick from Captain Edu Bedia gave FC Goa the win. They became the 4th team from Goa after Salgaocar FC, Dempo SC and Churchill Brothers to win the Durand Cup.
Coach Juan Ferrando and Director of Football Ravi Puskur sat down to answer a few questions on the campaign. Many topics were discussed which gave us an insight into how the club looks into every aspect before making a decision. Here are a few excerpts from the session.
CAN YOU TALK US THROUGH THE NIGHT OF 23rd OF SEPTEMBER, A DAY BEFORE YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO PLAY DELHI FC , WHEN FC GOA ALMOST PULLED OUT OF THE DURAND CUP? CAN YOU TELL US THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT COMPELLED YOU TO PLAY THIS GAME?
Ravi Puskar (RP): “We were pretty worried about the ground conditions and the weather didn’t play it’s part either. Myself and the coach inspected the Mohun Bagan ground, where the match was initially supposed to happen. But given the situation of the ground after reaching there, we realised the pitch was unplayable. The ground was waterlogged and we asked the officials if we could play in another ground or in on a different day, on another ground of course. We were informed that Kalyani Stadium might be an option but there was another quarter-finals scheduled to be played at Kalyani at the same time. As we know that game did not happen as a player from Army Red tested positive for COVID.”
“Given the short proximity of time, we felt that we had to pull out keeping the safety of our players in mind because we have one player who was severely injured at the time. We tried to ensure that the safety of our players was the first thing in priority. The next day, I had a look at the Kalyani pitch and while not ideal, it was capable of conducting a game.”
THE FINAL WAS A TENSE GAME BUT HOW DID THE TEAM HANDLE THE PRESSURE AS THE GAME WENT INTO EXTRA TIME? ARE THERE ANY STAND-OUT PERFORMERS YOU WOULD LIKE TO PICK?
Juan Ferrrando (JF): “It’s good when you work in the pre-season. In the semis we had penalties and in the finals we had extra-time and I feel that was very good. I know that the fans want us to win 3-0, 4-0. In my point of view, we played well keeping the conditions in mind. Not only physically but even tactically and mentally, especially for the youngster, the team understands why it is necessary to work hard during trainings. At the end, it is football.”
FC GOA HAVE NOW WON 2 DOMESTIC TROPHIES, THE SUPER CUP AND THE DURAND CUP. DO YOU THINK PLAYERS ARE OUT TO CATCH THE BIGGER FISH i.e. THE ISL?
JF: “Why does the club want to win trophies? It’s important to put focus on one methodology, one philosophy and to continue working the same way. This club needs to play in international cups because I believe with time the developing players will improve a lot in difficult tournament.”
THIS CLUB HAS WON ALMOST EVERY TOURNAMENT IT HAS TAKEN PART IN. THE ONLY TROPHY THAT THE CLUB HAS NOT WON IS THE ISL FINAL TROPHY. IN TERMS OF THIS SUCCESS, WHERE DO YOU RANK THIS DURAND CUP CAMPAIGN?
RP: “It has to go up there with one of our very best achievement. Any trophy has it’s own merit and people often forget the importance of the Durand Cup, it has not been given due importance. Developing Indian Football is not about bringing in flashy foreign players etc. It’s all about helping and participating and giving due respect to tournaments like these by sending out strong squads. Developing Indian Football is all about improving infrastructure and the competition. It’s by sending our players and giving them minutes.”
“This win ranks high the list because we had 6-7 players who made their debuts for the first team. Players spent nearly 30 days playing with professional players who play at the highest level. They played against team that were extremely competitive and to finish with a 100% record is mad. Notably in the finals, we had about 5-6 players who had never played in an atmosphere like that. With nearly 34000+ fans supporting the opponents, it was a great experience to even play in front of a crowd that huge and for them to hold their bottle and to show that they can last the distance and deliver.”
“Irrespective of whether it was a good game or average game, crossing the line is the most important thing. That is what we want to instil into the players and they showed this throughout the tournament, especially in the finals. There are a lot of positives to pick out on we will look to develop on them to win more trophies.”
HOW DO YOU ASSESS FC GOA’S OVERALL SUMMER TRANSFER ACTIVITY?
RP: “We’re pretty happy with the squad that we have with us and believe that they will help us win something meaningful this season.”
JF: “It’s the same for me. We have a wonderful squad and I’m happy with them. We will joined by the rest of the squad and will not want to pick up injuries. If we stay as a team we develop together and the future players.”
FC Goa start their ISL campaign against defending champions Mumbai City FC on 22nd November.
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