FC Goa Coach Juan Ferrando and captain Edu Bedia addressed the media in the pre-match press conference ahead of their historic debut at AFC Champions League. The team will be facing Al Rayyan SC the Qatari Stars League runner-ups of the 2019-20 season in their maiden outing. Here’s the full-length coverage of the pre-match presser-
On being asked about the preparations for the tournament coach Juan said, “We have prepared for the whole last week as it is a very important moment for the whole club and rather Indian football at large. We are working hard because we know the level of our opponents, these will be some high-intensity games and it’s quite essential to be ready in terms of physical condition as well as mental psychology.”
“After the last tournament that we completed our entire focus shifted to the AFC Champions League, tomorrow we will be making history for Indian Football being the first team to play at the tournament of such caliber and such level. We have worked very hard in the training grounds, we also have a lot of ambition and a lot of excitement towards playing this tournament and we will try our best to raise the flag for Indian football high!” he added.
Captain Edu Bedia, the lone survivor of the exodus has been the most experienced player of the lot. Having spent four years at FC Goa after an extensive LaLiga outing, the spaniard was asked wether the young Goan contingent is ready for the tournament of such a stature. Edu said, ” Fortunately or unfortunately depending on the perspective as how to look at it, I have got a lot many chances to play in a side which is considered as the inferior in comparison, especially at a stage like the Europa League.
So from there, the experience comes on how difficult can it get to run those hard yards without having much of the ball, this is the same thing we are going to explain to the Indian players. The games are going to be tough, the teams which we are facing are very hard so there are going to be moments where we will find it very difficult,”
The young players have played on a similar level or a bit lower than them throughout their growing days, but right now we need to understand that the team we are going to play against are of a very high stature. During such tough moments, we need to focus on the game and stay strong. The whole 90 minutes would be important and we will try to get the best results possible throughout the entire tournament.”
Coach Juan further went on to reiterate, “For me the most important thing is responsibility. Of course, the squad is very young but the fact this is the philosophy of the club. It’s very important to put focus game by game, it’s very important to have a very clear mentality and to be very competitive. It’s indeed an important moment for everyone at the club and Indian Football to grow and make a mark. The level of gameplay Persepolis and Al Rayyan have is of very high intensity. To play the game at a whole different level altogether it’s necessary to put pressure minute by minute and to control the game physically.”
14th April 2021 is a historic day for Indian Football and after being asked about his expectations captain Edu said, “What are we expecting from tomorrow.. well to be very honest it’s going to be a great learning curve to understand what it takes to play at this level and obviously we are going to enjoy the moment. Of what we are seeing out there, we are considered to be the weakest team in the group, I personally don’t see or feel that way. We are going to put our best foot forward and other teams have to be very careful when the play against us. We will intend to play the football we are trying to propose all this while and let’s see how we shape-up against the teams.”
Igor Angulo, the ISL Golden Boot winner missed out on the Champions League squad. “It’s a very difficult question, but to explain it again it was a very last-minute decision because we had some problems in the defense line, in this case, it was very necessary to control our squad and prepare the best 11 for the games to come. Of course, for us Igor is a very important player in our positional attack but no worries, no excuses this is our role, this is our squad we will keep going,” said coach Juan about the same.
Speaking about the unorthodox kickoff time which is quite unfamiliar in Indian football, Juan Ferrando added “At the end, the (kickoff) time is not that important because in the dressing room we all know that we’re playing the Champions League. Last week we got the whole schedule, right from breakfast to training and the timings shouldn’t be much of a problem because this is a very important competition for us. Once the players step onto the pitch, the ambiance, the environment would just make things better!”
The group E of the AFC Champions League will be hosted at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Fatorda – the fortress which belongs to FC Goa, the home advantage aspect was further elaborated, “For us it’s difficult to play empty. Support, full stadiums, and the atmosphere help to build the psychology of the team. Of course I am upset because this is the first time an Indian team is playing in the Champions League and we’ve to play behind closed doors. The good part is we’ve social media, the supporters always make their presence felt. It helps us knowing that they’re so close to the club, people not only from Goa but also from Kerala, Chennai, Kolkata help us by showing their support.
Football is a game for the fans, and without them we all are a bit disappointed. The last season has made us used to such conditions. Obviously we want to have them as soon as possible but the situation is such that we can’t have them. In regard to playing at home (Fatorda) there’s a small window of advantage in the sense that we know the country, the climate conditions, the pitch, but it’s only a small window and nothing significant in terms of having superiority over others.”
Speaking about the 3+1 AFC mandate, coach Juan said, “This is the rule and we have to accept it. A very great thing for the improvement of young Indian players. Also for us at the club, FC Goa gives paramount importance to development of players and improvement as a team. It’s a good thing for us, but in the end we need to give attention to the tactical aspects of football,” and he went on to speak about the opponents for tomorrow, “It’s difficult to speak about what will happen tomorrow as we all know Al Rayyan is a very good team, they’ve quality players. We saw some of their videos, they have good tactics. For me, the total attention for 90 minutes is very crucial. It’s going to be tough but as we’re in the Champions League it’s quite normal to face teams of such level.”
This time around FC Goa had an absolutely revamped setup, lot of youngsters, many new foreigners, “When we began the season we were a comparatively very young squad. We were a squad where a lot of players didn’t have the opportunity to play (before), we had a lot of new foreigners coming to the league and as the tournament went on we have become a very strong unit. In the last three league games and the two semi-finals we were definitely superior to the teams, we have played against and the only reason we were knocked out is because of our luck in the penalty shootout. But now as we have seen these players get a lot of experience throughout the league, and considering how things are, people not only have acclimatized to the league but also they’re young. This is one of the strongest squads FC Goa has had!” said the captain.
On an ending note, coach Juan spilled his Mantra for the upcoming game, “Just like every other game, be competitive, have strong psychology and mentality but the most important thing when you play football is to enjoy the game. if the players in the on the pitch and there are a lot of chances then we can have success. This is same for most of the teams around the world.”