From I-league to ISL

FC GOA C0-OWNER VIRAT KOHLI JUGGLES with a ball as actor Varun Dhawan and coach Zico look on.-PTI

Goa, the current powerhouse of Indian football — clubs from the small western State have made it a virtual monopoly in the I-League, winning seven of the last eight championships — has hedged its bet on fellow Portuguese-speaking Brazilian manager Zico for the inaugural Indian Super League.

The 61-year-old former forward, much travelled as a coach, has called for patience and has tried to deflect the level of expectations on him and his team and told Sportstar recently, “Give me some time. I cannot make them better overnight.” But the Goan fans and the rest of us in the country are hoping for a samba-style approach from FC Goa and the manager’s preferred 4-1-4-1 formation promises an attacking, attractive style of play.

The team’s marquee signing, former French international Robert Pires, though 40, has shown signs of brilliance in the practice field, prompting five-time I-League-winning coach Armando Colaco to say: “He is a class act, his touch has not gone.”

A young bunch of Indian talent — mostly drawn from Goa’s top two clubs, Dempo and Salgaocar, whose owners are also stakeholders in FC Goa — will have much to learn from the former Arsenal star, who still trains with the Gunners during the pre-season.

Ayon Sengupta