ISL: FC Goa's Nawaz confident ahead of second leg against Chennaiyin

Mohammad Nawaz talks about FC Goa’s focus as it looks to overcome a 1-4 first leg deficit against Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League playoffs.

Mohammad Nawaz has kept five clean sheets in 19 matches this season.   -  ISL Sportzpics

Guarding the goal for an attack-minded team like FC Goa can be a lonely experience. The league topping side has scored 47 goals in 19 games this season.

Graduating from the club's development squad under Technical Director Derrick Pereira's watch, Mohammad Nawaz impressed Goan fans with his composure under pressure since moving to the first team.

The 20-year-old from Manipur talks about his team’s focus as it looks to overcome a 1-4 first leg deficit against Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League playoffs.


Q. How does it feel to be guarding the goal of a team that is very attack-minded? Do you sometimes wish to score (a direct free-kick maybe) and enjoy the attention?

A. It feels great. I not only get to be the last line of defence for the team, but also the first point of attack for the team. I get to play with my feet and in every game there are tactics involved in terms of how we want to play. Everyone enjoys scoring a goal. One day when the team needs me, maybe in a penalty shoot-out, I would love to step up and deliver.

Chennaiyin FC is an attacking team, captained by Lucian Goian who scored crucial goals in the first leg of the playoffs and earlier in the league against Mumbai City FC. How do you plan to keep him quiet?

I think we just need to focus on our own game. We were not able to do so in the first leg where we failed to keep possession. Football is about balance and it is very important to find that. If we do, we can beat anyone in the country.

The second leg, taking place at the Nehru Stadium in Fatorda, is a must-win match for FC Goa. Do you expect a packed stadium and what is the team promising FC Goa fans?

I expect the stadium to be packed, expect a cracking atmosphere. These are the kind of games we look forward to as footballers. We have shown throughout this season that we are warriors, we have won whilst missing some very important players. We managed three draws when it would have been easier to just give up.

Those points (against Bengaluru FC, Kerala Blasters FC and NorthEast United FC) eventually proved to be the difference. We won six games in a row at home and were the best in the league for a reason. There is no quitting in this team, no matter what the situation.


Mohammad Nawaz has made a quick transition from FC Goa's development team to the first team.   -  ISL Sportzpics


Mistakes by a forward are often forgotten. Fans or teammates usually remember every mistake a goalkeeper commits. How do you pick yourself up for the next match?

It is the nature of the job and we know it. Goalkeeping errors are fatal more often than not, but I have to say that I have a fantastic bunch of people around me who back me. My teammates have been really encouraging ever since that. Mistakes are a part of life. We need to move on, I have to learn from it. I can’t be afraid to go and claim a ball in the air if the situation so required.

Indian goalkeepers have been preferred by ISL coaches from season 1, and more so in season 6. Do you feel the confidence shown by coaches has been justified, going by the goalkeeping displays in the top four teams?

I think India is particularly blessed with a number of good goalkeepers. Gurpreet (Singh Sandhu) has been leading the pack for a number of years, Amrinder (Singh) also being a top example. With goals being the premium prize, coaches would like to play foreigners at the other end of the pitch more. So having an Indian in goal always helps.


Former teammates from the India U-17 World Cup camp have been picked up by different teams this season. From your experience, what is the toughest part about adjusting from youth football to professional football?

The pace of the game changes a lot and you have to be really on top at every juncture. With the speed of the game increasing, the scope of getting away with a mistake becomes less. There is the added pressure of representing the hopes of so many people, whose eyes are glued to every movement you make. This challenge of course, comes with incentives and that is something I love about the game. To be able to play football at the professional stage is an absolute dream come true for me.

Fact file

The FC Goa goalkeeper played 19 matches this season, keeping five clean sheets and making 39 saves in 1710 minutes. He faced 192 shots, out of which 66 were on target and conceded 27 goals. He has made 279 passes so far and took 16 free-kicks. Nawaz is fifth in the race for Golden Glove award this season. After being overlooked for the U-17 World Cup squad in 2017 he was part of the Indian U-23 side at the AFC Qualifiers 2019.