FC Goa were playing their last AFC Champions League (ACL) match on Thursday and their head coach Juan Ferrando was not in the dugout, in fact none of the foreigners were. FC Goa had to field an all-Indian line-up for their final ACL game. The club had advised the head coach and all of its foreign contingent to leave India and board the first flight back home with more and more countries putting restrictions on travellers from India given the dire situation of Covid-19 second wave in the country. Moreover, India was also all set to stop international flights. The club didn’t want them all to get stuck in India without their families and hence, they asked them to go back home.
They all went but their hearts and mind were still with the team fighting on the pitch. FC Goa punched above their weight in the ACL finishing third with three points from six games in a group that had Iranian giants Persepolis, UAE’s Al Wahda and Qatar’s Al Rayyan. It was a Group of Death and yet FC Goa managed three draws but also endured three losses. In their final game against Al Wahda, they all fought extremely hard on the pitch but ended up losing 2-0 – a scoreline that made Ferrando extremely because he knew how hard his boys had worked.“Believe me, I know how difficult the last week was for the players – they are all exhausted, tired, they didn’t have the legs or the mental strength but they showed exemplary attitude and kept going,” Ferrando told News18.com in an exclusive conversation.
Ferrando could not be with his boys on the touchline and that made him feel “terrible”. He wanted to be out there on the touchline to help his team but alas! the situation didn’t permit him to do so.
“When you are in the dugout, you have control and you are communicating with your players but when I was watching the game from afar, it just felt so terrible. They managed the whole game with so much heart but just a couple of mistakes and I am very sad about the scoreline. The whole of the tournament, the team did so well,” he expressed.
Ferrando explained that the decision to go back to Spain came so suddenly that he didn’t get much time to bid goodbye to his family of eight months. “Honestly, I didn’t have much time. I just said thank you and that I had to catch my taxi. But later, I did right a message thanking all of them and helping me a lot in my first season in India. I was sorry that we had to leave so abruptly.”
However, Ferrando is happy to be back with his family after being away for so long even though he expressed that he and his family feel extremely sad about the situation in India. “You read the news everyday and it’s so sad to see what’s happening and how people are suffering,” he said.
With the season now over, Ferrando laughed and said he was looking forward to some sleep. He further shared that he was going to indulge himself with some books and movies while watching a lot of football is always on the agenda.
The Spaniard said that for now it is time to relax and in a week or two, he would perhaps sit with the management of FC Goa and discuss details about the future, plans for the next season and so on.
COACHING EXPERIENCE IN INDIA
Ferrando began his managerial career at the young age of 18. His first major stint was at Malaga, where he was the youth team coach. In 2013, he went on to manage Moldovan club Sheriff Tiraspol, with whom he won the Super Cup. He also guided the club to their first-ever appearance in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, where they lost to Dinamo Zagreb. He then helped his team overcome Serbian club Vojvodina in their UEFA Europa League playoff round and for only the second time in the history of the club, they made the group stage of the competition.
He then went through a rough patch at Ergotelis, Cultural Leonesa and Linares Deportivo. In 2017, he became the head coach of newly-formed third division club in Greece, Volos NFC. He guided Volos to back-to-back promotion into the first division but then he was forced to leave due to a bacterial infection in his eye that impaired his vision temporarily. After surgery and rehab, as he was looking for a club to join, FC Goa came along.
Ferrando said his first season in India was tough, especially given the difficult circumstances the season was held in. He didn’t have as much of a pre-season as he would have liked and found less time to instill his philosophy into the team. However, over the course of the season, the team did get much better and started to put the 40-year-old’s vision into play.
“I have a philosophy so it takes time to convey it to the players we were in very difficult circumstances. I won’t say I am a 100 per cent happy but I am satisfied that the boys started to get my philosophy. For me the most important thing was that the players understand the game. There are a lot of factors like controlling the spaces, understanding the positions of your teammates, timing of the passes, it is not just about pass, pass and pass, it is about timing it well and in accordance with all of your teammates. So I am glad that the players started understanding that and played as a team. For eg, the Ortiz goal, I know everyone just talks about the pass and the goal but the most important movement there was that Brandon was positioned behind Glan and so when the ball was recovered, he could make that transition, which was perfect of course,” he explained.
Ferrando feels the Indian players need to improve a lot but he was extremely happy with their work ethic and will to learn. “Technique-wise they can improve but I am very happy with the zeal and attitude. The grit and attitude they showed against Al Wahda was exemplary. The main thing is focus, what I emphasised most on was focussing for all of 90 minutes, that is the biggest point for Indian players I feel.”
When asked about the youngsters in the team, Ferrando said he was happy with all of them but made a special mention of 20-year-old Phrangki Buam. “He didn’t get any chance during the season but every day in the training session, he is a professional. He wants to understand the game, tries to put it in practice and has that attitude of always learning. I am sure his future is going to be extraordinary.”
Ferrando also had a few words for how the Indians must be helped in growing in the Indian Super League (ISL). He felt that even with five foreigners in the team, the major responsibilities should be divided well in the team and all the players must understand the value of team work. “By focussing on one or two players, you can win a few games but in tournaments like the ACL, you will be in big trouble,” he stated.