FC Goa's James Donachie: We have a team that can win ISL this year

Australian centre-back James Donachie speaks about life in a bio-bubble in Goa, defending in his club’s setup, the expectations for the season and more.

“I’m happy if I touch the ball a lot and we win. I’m happy if I don’t touch the ball and we win. That’s the way I’ve come through,” says James Donachie.   -  ISL / Sportzpics

Among the large contingent of A-League players to make their way into the Indian Super League (ISL) this season, towering Australian centre-back James Donachie has slotted in seamlessly into a new-look FC Goa side.

Donachie, on loan from Newcastle Jets, comes in with the experience of four campaigns in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League, where Goa will become the first Indian club to play in the group stages later this year.

In an interview with Sportstar, the 27-year-old speaks about life in a bio-bubble in Goa, defending in the club’s setup, the expectations for the season and more.

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What’s the hardest part of being in a bio-bubble?

It’s an experience. It’s something that I think I’m not sure if we have to get used to it with the vaccines coming out now, but we have been around the same people every day for what will be five months. We have breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day together, so it’s the most we’ll see these people ever. Some days it’s tough and some days it’s really good. The weeks when we have three games a week are the good ones, and then the weeks when we have eight days in between [games] are more difficult. If it means that the league goes ahead and people can watch football, then it’s working at the moment.

How would you describe the football in the ISL?

It’s different. I think when I came during the pre-season, it was a lot hotter than it is now. It’s cooling down a tiny bit and it helps that we play the games at night time. When I was back home and watching it on TV, it looked slower but it’s because it’s so humid. The other night, we played ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) and there was no sun and it looked like a cooler day, but you could feel it in the air that it’s thick. So, after a few sprints or so you feel tired and you understand why it looks that way. It’s just different and you have to adapt. If you adapt well, you do well here, and it’s the same in each country.

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What kind of a defender would you describe yourself as in this FC Goa setup?

I think we have very good foreigners this year and we have good players for that system we play. I’m happy if I touch the ball a lot and we win. I’m happy if I don’t touch the ball and we win. That’s the way I’ve come through.

Some teams we play have a lot of the ball and some teams we play like ATKMB don’t. For me, it’s not a problem. As long as we’re winning and we’re at the top of the table, that’s the most important thing. So, during the game, if I have to defend or I have to attack on the ball, it just depends on what we need during that game.

Donachie takes a shot against ATK Mohun Bagan on December 16. “...when I came during the pre-season, it was a lot hotter than it is now. It’s cooling down a tiny bit and it helps that we play the games at night time... The other night, we played ATK Mohun Bagan and there was no sun and it looked like a cooler day, but you could feel it in the air that it’s thick,” says the FC Goa centre-back.   -  ISL / Sportzpics

 

Less than a handful of clubs play Indian centre-backs in their starting XIs. Do you think there is a particular reason why foreign centre-backs are preferred to Indians?

I don’t know... I think it was something I spoke about with the club before coming here. I think some teams might be preparing for the four-foreigner rule change next year and some will still play with the two foreigners and then adapt next year. But I think it depends when the rules change. For me, it’s important that you use your foreign players in attack. To have two at the back at the moment is okay because that’s the rules. But when it changes, then I think that’s when the teams will need to adapt.

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What can FC Goa expect in its debut AFC Champions League (ACL) campaign?

It’s the highest level. It’s the top teams in Asia and it’s very fast, very technically good. But for us, it’s about going and enjoying it. It’s the first Indian team that’s going to be there. And especially for the Indian players to just enjoy and see what it is at the top level in Asia because then they’ll come back and work hard to try and get to that level.

What are your expectations for the season both in the ISL and the ACL?

I think we have a team at FC Goa that can win it [ISL] this year. I think we can achieve that if we keep playing well. For the ACL, I think the draw comes on January 27, so I’ll probably wait to see what teams come into that draw to see how we’ll go in that. But it’s [ACL] more so for the experience. In Australia, it was similar where it was about trying to get through the next group — if you finish top two or you can get a draw and a win to scrape through the next group. So I think that probably would be a goal and would be a big deal.