Mon, 18 Nov, 2019

FC Goa young guns looking to step up for Sergio Lobera’s Gaurs

BASIL SYLVESTER PINTO

07th November 2019, 02:37 Hrs

BASIL SYLVESTER PINTO

BAMBOLIM

A well-rooted structure of any given side is indicative of branching players from their reserve team to the senior squad who thereby stake their credentials given the opportunities.

Young goal-keeper, Mohammed Nawaz is a case point with FC Goa. Still only 19, Nawaz has progressed well from debuting midway last season with the first team in the Hero Indian Super League and largely, has been the first-choice shot-stopper since.

Within the squad of 25 at his disposal this season, the FC Goa Spanish boss, Sergio Lobera has five developmental team players; Liston Colaco, Saviour Gama, Princeton Rebello, Kingslee Fernandes and Shubham Dhas. While the aforementioned first three players have had their brush on field in the ISL, the last two are yearning to showcase their exemplary talent on the bigger stage in their debut season with the senior Gaurs.

Last season, the young left-back Saviour Gama came on as an early substitution in the all-important final for his injured captain, Mandar Rao Desai. And Gama not only took the place of his senior team-mate, but shored up the responsibility with aplomb which has continued with the limited game time he has been given since.

Reflecting on his time with the big boys, Gama did not refrain on singing paeans on rubbing shoulders with them since coming on board. “It has been great. I was inducted into the senior team last season. The way they motivate us in the training was very good. It has helped the team to build a new style,” reflected the exciting player,” disclosed the 22-year-old.

Gama may have come into prominence and as a positive from the heart-wrenching 1-0 loss to Bengaluru FC in the ISL final in Mumbai last season, but he also understands he remains an understudy, to Indian international left-back, Mandar Rao Desai.

“During practices, players give their best to be in the first XI. Mandar is a very experienced player. I have learnt a lot from him. It has been great. I have been playing for the last few minutes (of the game) but it’s on the coach (to decide),” he matter-a-factly said.

Adding further, the Chicalim lad revealed on how the senior pro, Mandar advised him in the all-important final at the Mumbai Football Arena. “On the day he (Mandar) got injured in the final, he told me at half time, how to defend tactically against one top player, Udanta (Singh) and not to allow him to turn. He told me many things which helped me a lot. Not only him, but other players too.”

Adjusting to a game temperament coming on to the field a super sub, Gama articulated. “It’s like training every day. We prepare for the match. You get match fitness during training as well. It is all about confidence.”

With their Spanish tactician USP in realizing the versatility of his resources, Gama merits his skill-sets in favour. “I was a winger too in my childhood days. I can play on the wings. It is all about speed and making the right decisions at the correct time, running the gaps for the through balls. I am used to that and it will be easy for me too,” states the promising left-back confidently.

In his time with the senior team, Gama acknowledged that certain aspects of his game he has improved upon. “Last season, I played in almost all the matches of the Super Cup. I think I was very weak in attacking the flanks. This season, it has been a lot easier and enjoyable for me to go on the wings and take on the opposition’s right back. The team, the coach as well has instilled in me a lot of confidence which has helped me a lot,” divulged the rising defender.

Meanwhile, 20-year-old forward, Liston Colaco who made his ISL debut with the gaurs two seasons against Chennaiyin FC as a super sub, has hardly got any minutes since. In his first season, he only had three more appearances as a substitute, while last season it was more limited with just a lone sub appearance. This season, he has barely had a minute out on the park against the Chennai outfit in Fatorda and not even a touch. Reading the situation with a sense of practicality, he stays motivated despite the odds of game time. “We have got a very good team. All the players, from the starting XI, to the substitutes and the rest of the players all are good. For me to stay regular, I work hard in the training sessions to show that something for the coach to see in me. I will get more time,” asserted the talented Davorlim-based striker.

While he continues striving hard for more minutes, Colaco acknowledges that training alongside the seniors has ensured that he learns a lot from them. “Not only the top foreign players, but the Indian players has been very motivating to us (developmental players)Mandar, Brandon, Manvir have played for the national team while the foreign players have always guided us. If they feel there is something, they push us on, and stay behind our backs. They motivate us to do well,” he said.

Over the past two seasons being with the first team, Colaco accepts that it has been rewarding. “I have observed players like Coro. They are very good in finishing and their movements. It is very difficult for the defenders. If you see for the third season running, he (Coro) is doing very well. From Jahouh, I have seen how he keeps the ball, makes passes and wins the ball too. With Pena and Fall (centre-backs), I have seen how they defend very well. These players have told us to be tough and not to be scared of anything,” stated Colaco.

With the coach inclined to explore flexibility in player’s positions, Colaco is up to the challenge. “Probably, I play as a left winger, but here, in the senior team, I play on the right wing. For me, while in school, I used to play as a midfielder. So it is quite easy for me (to adapt). But still I’ve to work hard on that position,” conceded the promising player.

With the start of their season, FC Goa’s Head Coach gave Betalbatim-based young midfielder, Princeton Rebello his ISL debut as a substitute against Chennaiyin FC in front of his home fans in Fatorda. Narrating on the experience, the 20-year-old stated, “It’s like a start with the coach believing in me. Those few minutes I played are the precious moments of my life. I want to earn a regular spot. I will work hard to do it and I know I will.”

In his third season with FC Goa (Rebello was loaned out to Indian Arrows in 2017-18 while he also played a few Pro League matches), admits that being with the ISL team has played a pivotal role in his growth as a player. “I have gained a lot playing with many experienced players. The coach (Lobera) motivates me even though I may make a mistake. He tells me to improve on it and believes in me. I know it is difficult (for him) to trust a youngster, but I know he trusted me in those minutes (ISL debut) and I will try to gain his trust for the full 90 minutes as well,” reveals the former India U-19 player.

Rebello also disclosed that playing the Super Cup last season changed the course of his career for the better. “I made my debut (for the gaurs) against Chennai in the semi-final. Those few minutes I played, coming on for the last seven minutes changed my life as it enabled me to get a new contract and I signed for another two years with the club.”

While he knows it will be hard given there are many senior, experienced players to contend for the midfield berth, Rebello is quietly confident that his time will come as he continues with his work ethic in training. “I am really blessed to play with Edu Bedia, Jahouh, Boumous, Lenny. They are all great, experienced midfielders and always encourage me to do my best,” he gushed.

With barely any game time with the first team, he knows it is prudent to play with the development side in the ongoing Goa Pro League. “If there is a certain time between games, I will tell the management that I want to play the Pro League. For me it is good to gain a lot of experience, playing time and improve my confidence,” the lad from Betalbatim confessed.

Rebello also divulged that there are a lot of other Goan midfielder talents like Hayden Fernandes, Nestor Dias among other players with the reserve team whose dream like every other Goan player is to represent FC Goa main team. “When I go to play there (reserve team), I give them a lot of confidence as they are also working hard,” he disclosed.

Meanwhile 19-year-old midfielder, Kingslee Fernandes knows that stepping up the plate comes with sterner challenges. “With the first team, decision-making is faster than with the developmental team to which I’ve to adjust to,” he said. Playing with the senior team in the pre-season friendlies was like being a student in class. “I have learnt to just keep the ball. While playing with the big players, I have learnt to play normally without any pressure,” revealed the new signee.

Another player moving up to the senior ranks this season, 21-year-old custodian Shubham Dhas knows it is an onerous task to break into the first XI but stays high on morale. “I have to work more hard and be more confident with the ball when I’m on field. The time will come, I have to be patient,” he believed. While he puts in the extra yards in training to be under the horizontal in the first XI, Dhas is mindful he needs ample match time as well. “If I do not get to play with the first team, I rather go down and play some matches (for reserve side) and gain my confidence back,” stated the shot-stopper.