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Durand Cup presents unique opportunities for clubs

Derrick Pereira

This season will see the return of the Durand Cup. This will be the 129th edition of the tournament, a reflection of the history of the game in the country. It feels like only yesterday that I was competing for the cup. I have a lot of fond memories associated with it.

However, I feel that it is time that I as well as others in India get out of that cloud of nostalgia and see this for what it really is – a great opportunity to get more exposure. 

We, as a footballing country, could have been so much better, had we taken our chances and planned better for the future. But there is no reason why we can’t begin now and that is what we plan to do this year around.

Our season will officially take off when the Developmental side starts their campaign in this historic tournament. We are the only team participating from Goa and I hope that all Goans will lend us their support as they always have.

The next generation needs more opportunities

The Durand Cup will be important for many teams in various ways. The Kolkata giants – East Bengal, Mohun Bagan and Mohammedan Sporting will try to show that they are no pushovers along with other I-League teams. The army sides will have their pride at stake. Whilst for us, this is a brilliant opportunity to help our youngsters get some much-need national exposure.

The tournament represents an opportunity for the Dev team to rub shoulders against some quality opponents and I am excited at the opportunity. The Durand Cup is absolutely vital for the development of these youngsters as they are set to go up against quality opposition and gauge their progress.

It is a time where we as coaches can also gauge how we are doing because in the end, our success can only be called so if the next generation of Goan footballers can shine on the big stage. We have heard time and again that the Indian footballers need more games and more exposure. And when the Durand Cup came along, we saw it as an opportunity to give the Developmental team more games.

FC Goa as a club is still very young. We are in our fledgling years with a focus to strengthen our roots. This is the time we can invest in our youngsters for a better tomorrow. These young kids won the Goa Pro League last season but we can’t stop there. Durand has to be the next step.

Winning the Goa Pro League was vitally important for the youngsters. We want to inculcate the winning mentality within the FC Goa youth players. That really gives you a boost moving forward to this season.

But we have to remember that the main focus of the team remains – the improvement of the players on the squad – both tactically as well as technically. There is a philosophy of playing football in a certain manner and we try and achieve success through that medium.

We believe in these players and their ability to not only play but also mature as individuals both on and off the pitch. Success and improvement of the players are not mutually exclusive entities for us and I believe that should be the case for clubs around the country.

The grassroots and youth development programmes should never be run with eyes on the trophies instead of the overall improvement of the players.

Over the course of the last two seasons, 11 players have come up from the U18 team and now form an important part of the Developmental team – a fact that makes me happy. Meanwhile, three players, viz Mohammad Nawaz, Saviour Gama and Princeton Rebello from the Developmental team saw themselves graduate and feature in the first team.

I wish to see similar success in other ISL and I-League clubs. That’s when we can rightly say that we are going in the right direction.

The new season awaits new heroes and the people of Goa lie in wait to find out who the next Gaur to grab his opportunity and make it to the next level will be.

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