FC Goa's Mandar Dessai: Hunger within stokes us to perform

Despite the sacking of coach Lobera, FC Goa skipper Mandar feels the familiarity developed in last three years helped the club finish top of the league stages.

Mandar Desai has been the skipper of FC Goa for the last three seasons.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

Mandar Dessai is confident of continuity paying dividends for FC Goa -- continuity in playing style and continuity in personnel. A major change at the top, head coach Sergio Lobera sacked three matches before the end of the league stages of the Indian Super League (ISL), took everyone by surprise, including the skipper hand-picked for the leadership role by the Spaniard. The anxiety phase is over and the club is now looking ahead towards stretching its exciting mix of effective and enthralling football into the semifinals.

READ | FC Goa becomes first Indian club to qualify for AFC Champions League

While winning the ISL title is the next goal, the bigger goal for Mandar and his teammates is to be worthy of competing at AFC Champions League group stage next year. “There has been a hunger within us. We have come close to winning something in the ISL time and again (two-time finalists). And with the incentive of a place in the AFC Champions League next season, we were stoked (to perform),” he said.

Asked about the value of continuity, he explained: “Continuity has been a theme that paid rich dividends time and again in world football, we have reaped its benefit here. The club has made a constant effort to keep the core together. Over the years, we have come to know each other in terms of style of play, preferences on the pitch, the strengths and the weaknesses. In the dressing room, the atmosphere is that of a family. When you have that kind of comfort level of interactions it shows on the pitch.”

FC Goa became the first Indian club to get a direct entry into the AFC Champions League group stage.   -  ISL Media

 

The architect behind the success story, Lobera is gone, leaving the players to regroup themselves and deliver as per own expectations. Assistant coach Clifford Miranda took charge as interim coach, while technical director Derrick Pereira has stepped in to fill the breach. “The ideas that the coaches bring requires some time for people to take in. If not given adequate time to mould the players and get in the kind of players required to play that style of football, it’s hard to take the next step anywhere. We have done it and the results are for all to see.”

For Mandar, who was taken by surprise at the decision to change the chief coach, the responsibility of focussing as an individual player and carrying the squad along was challenging. Asked to describe how the situation was managed, he said: “It was never easy. When there is a sudden change in your life – whether it is personal or professional. It takes time to adjust to the new surroundings and routines. We are professionals and we take that word seriously.”

Fact box

FC Goa scored the most goals this ISL season (46 in 18 appearances), has the best goal difference (+23),  the most wins and least losses among first four finishers (12 and three respectively). The ISL league topper shield is with the Goan club, the trophy is in sight and four teams remain in contention.


He elaborates: “We were near to achieving something historic and didn’t let anything else distract us. In practice, we were thorough, the dressing room remained abuzz and on the pitch, the only thing that mattered was getting three points on match night.”

The resultant three wins to end the league stages were credit to the players and the coaching staff during transition. "Clifford is someone I have always looked up to since I was a kid. He was already the assistant coach and then Derrick came in. They kept faith in us and helped plug any loopholes. The results on the pitch prove everything.”

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