FC Goa's Mandar Rao Dessai opens up about transition from winger to defender

Mandar Rao Dessai explained his shift from a winger to a left-back under Sergio Lobera at FC Goa, which also led to a national team call-up by Igor Stimac.

Mandar Rao Dessai in action for FC Goa.   -  ISL

Mandar Rao Dessai joined FC Goa in the inaugural season of the Indian Super League (ISL), in 2014. Playing under the then coach Zico, Mandar operated as a winger - a role he was familiar with during his playing career until then.

However, Sergio Lobera's arrival at FC Goa in 2017 brought a change in position and also fortune, for Mandar. The Spanish coach deployed him, making him play as a left-back. The shift in roles helped Mandar make a name for himself in ISL.

"During the preseason in Spain last year, coach [Sergio] Lobera told me that I could do well in this [left-back] position. He asked me if I would be comfortable, before fielding me in the first game in Spain. As the season progressed, I tried my best to learn the art of defending, given that this was not the position I played in the previous seasons. Coach told me that if I keep doing well in the position, I could play as a left back in the national team too," he said.

As Lobera suggested, Mandar went on to play for the national team, being called up for the camp by the newly appointed coach Igor Stimac. Mandar was part of the Indian side which held Asian giant Qatar to a goalless draw in the World Cup 2022 qualifier, last month.

"I was excited to make my debut (against Qatar). Facing the Asian champions was a tough task. We tried to do our best and keep a good rhythm. Between the defenders and midfielders, we kept it compact and therefore got a good result against them," he said, recalling the performance in Doha.

Mandar said it was "a new challenge" for him to adapt to the role of a full-back. "I had to change my whole game, I watched a lot of videos online to improve," he added.

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