Two finals.Two losses. And, FC Goa had been undone, on both occasions, in the final minutes. Before we get into what went wrong ; what should have been done; and what should not have been done , a snapshot of the fans of FC Goa attending the first FC Goa final out of Goa.
The Mumbai Football Arena has an international standard playing field but the stadium seats just around 8,000 people. It is situated close to the Azad Nagar police station in Andheri and, unlike some stadiums in the country, does not have any parking facility in the vicinity of the stadium.
It is flanked by roads on three sides and a Kabrastan on the other. So, the FC Goa fans were visible on three sides and wherever they were, there was plenty of noise. Off course the colour orange was visible everywhere and with it the scent of Goa- though the fragrance differed from place to place.
The southern stand of the stadium, situated behind one of the goalposts was earmarked for VIP’s and the remaining three for fans of both teams. From amongst the 7,000 odd fans gathered, the majority were travelling fans.
The contrast between the fans was clear. The Bengaluru fans were all together whilst the FC Goa fans were all over the remaining areas of the stadium available. Both were vociferous but the only niggle was when some FC Goa fans tried to boo the match officials when they were called to receive their mementos.
Aaaaah ! Can we not stop blaming officials for not being able to win?
As the final whistle was blown and it became clear that FC Goa were second time losers, the winning moment was when coach Sergio Lobera walked towards the match officials and exchanges a gentleman handshake with them. Sergio’s action epitomised that winning or losing are part of sports.
FC Goa never started the finals as favourites and that is why they never played as favourites. The ball was with Bengaluru FC from beginning to end and all FC Goa did was play second fiddle. The winners adopted a different strategy for the finals whilst FC Goa went with the one they have adopted right through the tournament and it did not work because the winners Plan B was all about stopping just that.
The past is over and looking back will have no certain future. Instead, the way forward. Sergio has been with FC Goa for two years and enters the third with a lot more experience. He has seen what is available in the country as is therefore is in a position to pick what suits his style of play best.
FC Goa’s football has in the last two years, under Sergio, revolved around how the foreign players in the team perform and they have done a great job. FC Goa has finished both seasons under Sergio with the Golden boot Award and yet no title. Surely something is amiss.
Sergio started his first year with a number of players from Goa and a few from India and the ones from Goa were retained while most from India were released. Having a team with local flavour is an important ingredient to draw fans to the ground. But will fans come when what is in offer is not the best?
This is the first problem FC Goa will have to brace as it gears for Indian Super League (ISL) 6.
Seriton Fernandes is the best face of Goa in the team. He has progressed tremendously from his first year and has kept getting better and better in the second. He will keep going higher as long as he continues enjoying the freedom to understand better what Sergio and the rest expect from him.
Lenny Rodrigues is the new face of FC Goa and despite being in the starting eleven for all games has not really impressed. Lenny fits into what Sergio and the other foreign players want him to do. But, football is not only about doing what others want you to do but what you are capable of doing for yourself.
Lenny has not shown his imaginative side on the FC Goa landscape as he used to when he was with Bengaluru FC. Perhaps, he was different there because he had a better understanding of what was expected from him. He is a player capable of exhibiting far more attractive football; football that seems to be incubating in his first season under Sergio.
Brandon Fernandes gives glimpses of good football and no player is expected to play in glimpses at this level. The best in glimpses is never detectable when they are scarce. There have been times when he has shown he understands and there have been times when he has played, as if he has forgotten where he is and this inconsistency has time and again shaken the fabric Sergio is trying to weave for FC Goa.
Goa has produced excellent players in the past and will keep producing more in time. There are a few players that appear to be lost whilst All India Football Federation (AIFF) is trying to draw a road map for football in India. Hopefully, many of these players will find their way once the road map gets clarity and direction.
Overall, FC Goa had a good season. The team has progressed but on its way forward, the crowds have not. There has been a decline in the fans attending matches – off course the decline is not as severe as it is in other States. But, the decline is clearly evident; the enthusiasm is diminishing.
For sure, Sergio now knows what he requires to bolster FC Goa to win ISL 6. Knowing is one thing and getting is the other. Sergio needs to be given the keys of the coffers to get the best to make FC Goa the best.