ISL: FC Goa eyes new beginnings with Carlos Pena beyond last-season horrors

FC Goa managed to win just four matches in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 and ended up third from the bottom with 19 points from 20 matches.

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Devendra Murgaonkar (right) is an exciting youngster in the ranks of FC Goa.   -  FOCUS SPORTS/ISL

FC Goa’s new manager Carlos Pena has said that he will build a team that’s together instead of 11 individual players as the Gaurs look to forget last season’s horrors in the Indian Super League (ISL).

“Independent of what happened last season, it's the perfect moment to come back and help the team grow,” he said.

“We are going to build a strong team, to try to recover the confidence and the best performance of the players that will remain at the club and with that we will try to do our best in the next season.”

Pena was announced the head coach of the club after Derrick Perreira ended last season in an interim capacity after the sudden exit of Juan Ferrando for ATK Mohun Bagan. Having won the U-20 Euro Championship with Spain in 2002, Pena has spent most of his career in Spain, playing with Barcelona B, Getafe and Albacete Balompie.

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The 38-year-old former left-back also has previous experience in Indian Football, having played with Goa in ISL for two seasons (2018-19 and 2019-20).

He joins the club after completing the 2020-21 season as assistant coach of Lleida Esportiu in Spain and said that he wanted to return to a club that he knew “perfectly”.

Dawning on a new role at FC Goa

Pena has a proven record of guiding Goa to success in the past, winning the League Winners' Shield and the Super Cup.

Now that he joins the team in a new role, he agreed responsibilities will increase manifold.

“Coaching is tougher than playing because when you play, you share the responsibility with other players and your teammates. Sometimes, when you lose [as a player], it’s because of your coach.

"Now as a coach, I, in my two years of coaching, have felt fully responsible for all the things happening on the pitch as well as outside the pitch,” Pena said.

Pena had played 43 games with Goa and had scored twice. With him in charge, the Guars can expect attacking runs along the wings – something the Spaniard often did back in his heydays.

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“I will try that my team will play the football I like, one that FC Goa fans like – attacking football, of course,” he said, “I have enjoyed playing as a full-back trying to attack and I have been trying to do the same with my teams [that I have managed].”

Reputation to develop youngsters

Pena moved on to coaching after retiring from professional football in 2020 and has earned a UEFA Pro Licence since.

He has coached the youth team of Lorca and UCAM Murcia, before moving to the youth team of his former side Albacete Balompie, where the team scored more goals in the Juvenil League than it did in its last 20 years.

“My work is very clear in these terms – I love the point of view Goa has about young players and I want to contribute to help them grow,” he said.

“I come from formative football. I come from working with players 18, and 19-years-old and it's going to be a similar situation with the players we have [here] in the squad – being with them at the training sessions, giving them opportunities during the games and trying to improve them.”

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Devendra Murgaonkar (right) is an exciting youngster in the ranks of FC Goa.   -  FOCUS SPORTS/ISL

 

The ISL 2021-22 season saw the goal tally of Indian players burgeon last season, rising to 61 goals from 39 in the previous one, with a hint that reducing the number of foreigners on the field may have contributed to the same.

Pena, talking about the issue, said that the change has made some difference, but it was needed.

“I think this is great for Indian players because they have to take responsibility. It is time for them to show their potential. If India wants to grow in football in the future, it is necessary,” he said.

Rebuilding an FC Goa that never gives up

FC Goa had finished the 2020-21 season as a semifinalist and fourth on the league table. The very next year, it managed to win just four matches and ended up third from the bottom with 19 points from 20 matches.

Secondly, the Gaurs have choked in key matches — the semifinals of 2019-20 vs Chennaiyin FC and two ISL finals, in 2018-19 and 2015.

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These are the key impediments in front of the Spaniard when it takes charge of the side — to let go of the team’s past horrors and bring in a fresh gust of philosophy and bellief in a football-crazy part of the country.

“We will work on it – to build a strong team, one that works from minute one to the last minute of the game, that never gives up.”

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