ISL 2021-22: FC Goa's Devendra eyes ISL success after Durand cup glory
The 23-year-old rose to fame after finishing joint-top-scorer in the Durand Cup, eventually helping his side with the tournament for the first time.
Devendra caught FC Goa’s eyes while playing for Salgaocar FC and scored nine goals for the side in the Goa Pro League.
FC Goa’s promising forward Devendra Murgaonkar played a pivotal role in helping his side win the 2021 Durand Cup in October.
Despite scoring an all-important equaliser against SC East Bengal in the previous edition of Indian Super League and featuring in the AFC Champions League, Murgaonkar was a relatively unknown name in Indian football before the Durand Cup.
But when the youngster finished joint-top-scorer of the tournament with five goals and lifted the trophy, the transition from anonymity to accolades and recognition was quick.
Devendra caught FC Goa’s eyes while playing for Salgaocar FC and scored nine goals for the side in the Goa Pro League, which was discontinued last season due to the Covid pandemic. His stellar form led to FC Goa signing Devendra on a three-year deal.
With the new season of the ISL currently underway, neither he nor his team has been able to carry forward the stellar form from the Durand but it is still early days.
Sportstar was able to have a chat with the youngster where he spoke about life post his first trophy with FC Goa, his early playing days in Salgaocar and why he looks up to Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Durand Cup was your first title with FC Goa and to top it all, you finished joint-top-scorer of the competition with five goals. With the spotlight on you ahead of the upcoming ISL campaign, how are you coping with it mentally?
I am not thinking much about the past. I am happy we won the Durand Cup and I hope I continue my good form in the ISL.
Being a Goa boy, you’re now playing for your home team at the highest level of football the country has to offer. How was the reaction in your hometown and among your friends and family after you played such a vital role in leading FC Goa to its maiden Durand Cup title?
It is like a dream come true to play for FC Goa. When we won the Durand Cup my family and my friends were very happy. I received many calls and messages after the game. It felt really good.
Is there a particular coach who has made a significant impact in your formative years? If yes, what is the one piece of advice by that coach that has stuck with you, which you still implement whenever you take the field?
The one coach who helped me a lot was Anthony Pereira. Because of him, I improved a lot. He gave me the chance to join Salgaocar FC and from there my journey started. He used to tell me: “Always be cool in front of the goal”.
Every coach has a different approach to the game with a tactical acumen of their own. As a player, how difficult do you find it to adapt to that style of play, especially if it doesn’t complement yours?
I always listen to what my coach says. If I have doubts, I clear them out by having a conversation with the coach and my senior teammates. Their guidance helps me to get a better understanding, especially because I am still young and developing as a footballer.
After a great pre-season and of course the Durand Cup triumph, is it training as usual or are you working on any specialised aspect to up your game?
I have been working on my finishing, dribbling and passing. I don’t want to take pressure because I am still in the process of learning.
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From your initial days in Salgaocar SC to now being the top scorer for FC Goa in the Durand Cup at just 23 years old, it is safe to say your career graph is rising steadily. Do you ever fear that you’ll feel saturated and not find the drive to push yourself as a player?
No, I don’t think in that way. I always believe in working hard and pushing myself no matter how well I play. That is the only way I can improve as a footballer.
Playing in your home city, the lack of home fans for the second consecutive season is unfortunate. Are you personally affected by the lack of home support?
Yes, I definitely miss the fans. Without them, football is incomplete. If we had home support, I think it would have made a good impact on our players.
Is there any player whom you considered as your idol growing up? Which attribute of that player do you take inspiration from to better yourself as a player?
My favourite player is Cristiano Ronaldo. I try to base my game on his style of play. I idolise him because he is very hardworking and never gives up.
In case you missed the match, here's a recap