FC Goa v Delhi Dynamos: a battle between mentor and protege

The galaxy of big names is bound to add to the excitement on the night, but a positive result in this match – as well as the long-term spoils – could well go to the team which functions as a well-oiled machine.

Brazilian Zico has filled his Goa FC team with Brazilians and hopes for a better finish than last year's semi-final appearance.   -  M. VEDHAN

Delhi Dynamos' player/coach Roberto Carlos grew up idolising his Goa FC counterpart Zico and has a healthy respect for him.   -  SANDEEP SAXENA

Having made significant personnel changes in the off-season, FC Goa and Delhi Dynamos hope to start their Indian Super League (ISL) campaigns in right earnest.

FC Goa, which reached the semifinal last year, is focused on grabbing better returns this time round. To achieve this end, coach Zico has brought in nearly 20 new faces, including seven Brazilians. Zico, however, dismissed suggestions that he bears a fondness for footballers from his home country. “These questions, about the number of Brazilians in our team, have to stop. Why this prejudice? I do not know why this question pops up so often,” he said, at a press conference here on Saturday.

Big things are expected from Spanish midfielder Jofre Mateu Gonzalez, who was part of the Atletico de Kolkata squad, which won the inaugural edition of the tournament.

Delhi Dynamos finished fifth last year, and they too want to step it up a notch. Former Champions League winners Florent Malouda and John Arne Riise have been brought in, while striker Adil Nabi has arrived on loan from West Bromwich Albion to add more weight to the team.

The galaxy of big names is bound to add to the excitement on the night, but a positive result in this match – as well as the long-term spoils – could well go to the team which functions as a well-oiled machine.

This view was echoed by Goa’s new marquee player, Lucio. “The championship cannot be won by an individual, it can only be won by a team,” the 2002 World Cup winner said.

An interesting off-the-field battle is also on the cards. Delhi’s manager-cum-player Roberto Carlos makes no secret of his admiration for his opposite number, Zico. Not only was Zico an idol for a young Carlos, growing up in Brazil, the two also worked together as coach and ward during Carlos’ time at Turkish club Fenerbahce. “Zico was not just my coach at Fenerbahce, but also a father-figure to me. This match is not just a clash between a student and teacher, but also between a father and son,” Carlos stated. The man with a golden left-foot mentioned that he is available to take the field as a player, but added that he will only compete for a few minutes per game.

Zico, naturally, expects no favours from his protege. “This will be very competitive. Not just Goa, every other team wants to win the title,” he said.

Head to head: FC Goa beat Delhi Dynamos 4-1 (13 November. 2014); FC Goa beat Delhi Dynamos 2-1 (1 November 2014).

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