AUGUSTO RODRIGUES | NT
The four players from Goa – Mandar Rao Desai, Adil Khan, Rowllin Borges and Brandon Fernandes – selected by new India coach Igor stimac to represent India in the International Cup played a total of 406 minutes amongst them in the three matches before the team was eliminated from the competition on Tuesday.
Debutant Mandar was given the most playing time – 134 minutes whilst Brandon Fernandes finished with the least – 45 minutes.
India finished the tournament with one point from the maximum nine they could have collected in a tournament where the other participants played far better. Football in India is still in its infancy and qualifying for the AFC Cup under former coach Stephen Constantine was the wobble before the walk of an infant. Igor has a long way ahead.
Igor Stimac took India into the competition giving eight players their debut. From the eight, Mandar from Goa was one. Mandar started his career as a left winger where he showed potential. He was asked to play left back by FC Goa coach Sergio Lobera and has since been finding it difficult to find his rhythm. Hopefully for Mandar, Igor may realise – in the 134 minutes that he played in two matches – that Mandar needs to be freed, he needs to be given his space to shine.
“I accepted the challenge and even though it was my first time playing left back, I eventually settled and enjoyed playing in that position,” Mandar has been quoted in the All India Football Federation (AIFF) website. One – he admits it is not the position he normally plays and two – it was evident from his two games that he is still out of place.
“The coach believes that I can help in the attacking side of the game. It is my strong point and it is always on my mind to go forward and help build-up attacks. He wants the team to keep the ball and move up the pitch slowly, which is a style I am familiar with at club level as well,” Mandar has been quoted in the AIFF website.
Mandar showed great promise with FC Goa under former coach Zico and with Dempo Sports Club. He had increased the speed of his runs on the flank and was developing a strong and accurate shot at goal. He was one of the main scorers for Dempo SC and contributed in number of goals for FC Goa with Zico. This has stopped since he has been asked to play as left back by Sergio.
Adil Khan was the other player from Goa who got 129 minutes from the 370 odd that the boys from India got an opportunity to excel in the tournament. Adil has played as central defender before; as withdrawn midfielder and has shown a penchant to score goals when he is giving an opportunity. Igor appears to be testing him in the central defence. Adil and Sandeep Jhingam appear capable of holding the defence. But, the recalling of Anas Edathodika, out of retirement, appears to have thrown the defensive plan wide open.
Rowllin Borges was given 98 minutes in the two games that he was used and almost scored in the first game that he was brought in as substitute. Rowllin got a chance, a chance that many scorers would have converted. Rowllin’s try was on target, though straight at the goalkeeper.
Brandon Fernandes was played for 45 minutes in one game
and during his stay he once again showed what he is known for – being a master
of the ball when in possession but lack of ingenuity when