Durand Cup good litmus test for youngsters: FC Goa head coach Pena

FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena said while he expects 100 per cent dedication from the young team, his main focus will be on player performances and not results.

FC Goa players train ahead of their Durand Cup opener against Mohammedan SC. 

FC Goa players train ahead of their Durand Cup opener against Mohammedan SC.  | Photo Credit: FC GOA

FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena said while he expects 100 per cent dedication from the young team, his main focus will be on player performances and not results.

Newly-appointed FC Goa head coach Carlos Pena might not have physically interacted with the team yet but he has already started the process of getting his philosophy of discipline across the side. 

While he is yet to join the team for training, technology has been Pena’s ally in his effort to start the rebuild after FC Goa’s disappointing Indian Super League (ISL) campaign last season where it finished ninth in the standings. 

“I have been in touch with all of them, including the new signings [the players] since I signed as the head coach. We have been training for the last two months and a half, sometimes through Zoom. So, when I am going to meet my players on the field, they are not going to be completely new faces to me,” Pena told  Sportstar.

Things were looking bright when Juan Ferrando guided FC Goa to its maiden Durand Cup title last year but the momentum took a halt when Ferrando, who was destined to reach great heights with the Gaurs, left the club mid-season to join ATK Mohun Bagan and Goa ended the campaign with just four wins in 20 matches. 

Pena, who won the League Winner’s Shield and the Super Cup with FC Goa as a player, will look to reach greater heights with the club as the head coach. 

The ISL is still a few months away but Pena has an important task ahead of him right now - to monitor the youngsters who will open the Durand Cup tournament on August 16 as defending champion against Mohammedan SC, the team it beat last year to lift the title. 

Pena is not directly overseeing the management of FC Goa’s team in the Durand Cup. The team will be under the tutelage and guidance of Deggie Cardozo, head of FC Goa’s developmental team, but it will be an important tournament for the boss. 

“I am going to follow the tournament very closely and be thorough with my research. I have had a talk with the boys. The Durand Cup is definitely a big challenge for the boys but also a very good opportunity to show what they can do.”

Lack of experience

The spotlight will automatically be on FC Goa as it braces for a title defence. Fielding a team of youngsters is always an encouraging sight. In fact, youngsters like Devendra Murgaonkar and Muhammad Nemil were crucial in Goa’s title-winning campaign last year. Murgaonkar finished as the joint top-scorer of the tournament with five goals. 

However, given the level of competition, the lack of experience can be a factor that could work against the Gaurs. Last year, the Gaurs had a well-balanced team of youth and experience with senior players like Edu Bedia and Ivan Gonzalez playing for the team. But Pena is not concerned. 

“The decision to send the youngsters is one we have made consciously. We have long-term goals and are looking at the future. We are looking at the development of the youngsters and this is a great way to assess them. Some youngsters in the Durand Cup squad are going to be with us throughout the rest of the season,” Pena said.

“FC Goa has always focused on nurturing and developing young players. So what better way to promote this than by sending the youngsters to play in such a big tournament and giving such a big responsibility on their shoulders?”

Pena added that while he expects the players to give their 100 per cent, the main focus is “not on the result but the performance.”

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