PANAJI: “It’s not we that choose, but the ones that want us choose us.” This is how Zico explained his move to FC Goa as its manager for the inaugural Indian Super League after the franchise’s co-owner Shrinivas Dempo presented the former Brazilian football legend to the media, calling him the club’s “gift to Goa,” on Tuesday.
“This is a very big responsibility for me. To come here and coach is a great challenge. I am looking forward to this opportunity FC Goa has given me,” Zico said of his new challenge in Asia. “Naturally, there are a lot of expectations here. What I am bringing to the team is the experience and nous I have gathered over the years, playing and later coaching in different parts of the world,” the coach, who has worked in Japan, Iraq, Turkey, Moscow and Qatar, said.
“There are a lot of experienced footballers, with the experience of playing in the top leagues in the world, who have joined the league. These players will raise the level of the play and have positive influence on the young Indian players as they interact with them in the locker room and on the pitch,” he added. “ISL is a big league. I hope that the quality of football will rise here and it will benefit football as a whole. For success, we have to work very hard. I have done so in my country and will do the same in India.”
“Asian football is getting stronger. I am not here to be a mere passenger; I am here to be a part of the development of football in the country…India is a very large country but it is very unfortunate that the standard of football is not too high. I came to Kolkata in 2004 for the World Cup preliminaries and saw the stadia filled with over 80,000 people enthusiastically cheering and enjoying the game. If there is so much love for the game then there should be something done to raise its standard. I hope that football scales greater heights with the help of the federation and the government,” Zico said recalling his only earlier visit to India.
The coach, who will start training with the FC Goa squad from Thursday, said he was eager to kick-start the campaign with his new club. “I am here now and we will start the training soon. I have not seen my club’s players on the ground yet. Once I assess them, I would be able to talk about them,” he said. “My objective is clear. It is to reach the finals and win. I am optimistic about this. We have to prepare well though. I want to get to know each and every one of the players well as soon as possible and I will share my philosophy of the game with the team.”
Zico said it was not unusual for him to take over an already assembled side, for which he was not involved in the selection of the players. “It is not a problem at all. FC Goa has assembled a very good team. It’s my job to train them and see that they compete well. When I went to Iraq, players were selected and I had only five days to be with the team, still I trained them. The players belong to the club and not to the trainer,” he said. “Often when the results are bad, the coach is blamed for selecting the players and that becomes a bigger problem for the coach. In Brzail, if you lose four matches, you are sent home. But in England, coaches stay on for 12 and even 15 years. This differs from culture to culture. My job is to make the players better so that they do their best. FC Goa may even sign on a Ronaldo or a Messi. But my job remains the same; to train them.”
Zico said he is keen to understand the “football culture” of India, as it is what decides how successful the country can be in the sport. “When I went to Japan for the first time, there was no professionalism in football in that country at all. But they wanted to improve and make the sport professional. From being amateurs they wanted to be recognised as professionals. I introduced to them a culture of professional football and things started to improve gradually. However, it was not just about me; there was a huge team of professionals who helped bring about this transformation.”
“In Turkey, they were only focused on their internal league. When I went there, they just wanted to win their own league. But I made them change their perspective and convinced them that they have to compete with the best European teams. Then I went to Qatar, where they were just crazy about foreigners. They just wanted the best foreign stars to play in their league. But that was not going to help Qatari football,” he said.
“Now I am here, and I want to see how the Indian players perform. Yes, there will be a lot of foreign stars in action in the ISL, which is great for the league. But ultimately, this league is the platform for the Indian youngsters to showcase their talent to the world. They have to step up to the plate and show what they are capable of,” said Zico.