FC Goa braces up for historic AFC Champions League bow

FC Goa says it will attempt to showcase the “Indian brand of football” when it makes its AFC Champions League debut next week.

FC Goa was granted a direct spot in the AFC Champions League after a first-place finish in the league stage of the ISL. - ISL

FC Goa says it will attempt to showcase the “Indian brand of football” when it makes its AFC Champions League debut next week. FC Goa will become the first club from India to play in the continental club competition on April 14 when it takes on Qatar’s Al-Rayyan.

India had earlier been granted a direct spot in the AFC Champions League and having finished at the top of the Indian Super League table in the 2019-20 season, the Gaurs qualified for the ACL.

“It's a huge achievement for the State and the country. It's more like a national representation rather than a club or State,” India and FC Goa midfielder Brandon Fernandes was quoted as saying by AIFF.

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“The entire nation will be watching us as one and so we ought to give it our all.”

Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, matches in Group E will be played in Goa this time as the State plays host to teams like Persepolis (Iran), Al-Rayyan (Qatar), and Al-Wahda (UAE), along with FC Goa. Ishan Pandita, who recently made his Blue Tigers debut in the 1-1 draw against Oman in Dubai, feels this is an opportunity to make the nation proud.

‘Special feeling’

“It's obviously a very special feeling. It's a great opportunity that we have to show Asia and the world that India can play good football,” said Ishan Pandita, who recently made his Blue Tigers debut in the 1-1 draw against Oman in Dubai.

Goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem, who had represented India in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, said, “It's a very important step. It's not going to be easy. We are not just representing Goa, we are representing the whole country,” he said.

Goa's local lad and India defender Adil Khan said, “It is extremely special that for the first time, India is being represented at the biggest football stage in Asia. It is a historic occasion for India, and massive pride and privilege for Goa to represent the country in the Champions League,” he said.

Midfielder Amarjit Singh Kiyam, who captained India in the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2017, mentioned that the magnitude of the occasion was understood by everyone in the camp.

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