PANAJI: With less than 10 days left for the 2023-24 edition of Indian Super League (ISL) to kick-off, FC Goa are currently in the final phase of their pre-season preparations. Led by head coach Manolo Marquez, the Men in Orange recently reached the semi-finals of the Durand Cup, and would now be keen to follow it up with a fruitful campaign in the league as well.
Marquez, meanwhile, along with players Noah Sadaoui, Udanta Singh and Muhammed Nemil also took time out of their hectic pre-season schedule to attend the ISL 2023-24 Media Day in Bengaluru on Tuesday, where they shared their thoughts on the upcoming league season and more.
“In every interview I say that it’s very dangerous to speak before the competition. We know that we want to be the Cup winners. But, for now, the goal is to arrive at our first match of the season in the best possible way,” Manolo Marquez said, emphasizing the importance of the training sessions and the fitness of players.
The Spaniard also opened up about his time in Goa so far, saying, “I think that for a person like me who is from a country where football is like a religion, I think it’s a very nice challenge and a very nice idea to sign with a club like FC Goa.
“I’m very happy, and confident that the season will be very good for us. For me, pressure is another reason why I think coaches enjoy this profession, as it is a part and parcel of what we do. I’m enjoying the situation too,” he added.
One of the most consistent teams since the start of the ISL in 2014, FC Goa have reached the playoffs on six out of nine occasions so far. That said, the Gaurs failed to make it in the last couple of seasons, prompting the Club’s think-tank to initiate a squad overhaul this summer.
The likes of Alvaro Vazquez, Edu Bedia, Aibanbha Dohling and Anwar Ali made way for Udanta Singh, Sandesh Jhingan, Raynier Fernandes, Rowllin Borges, Boris Singh, Narayan Das, Carl McHugh, Victor Rodriguez, Odei Onaindia and so on.
In addition, the Men in Orange have also roped in some fresh faces such as Carlos Martinez, Paulo Retre and Jay Gupta, who are expected to make their ISL debuts in the coming weeks.
Marquez also addressed the importance of integrating players, focusing on the importance of teamwork. “It’s not always about the coach in such cases. I can tell you about a lot of teams where the players don’t like the coach – but if they are all together, finally the strength of one team is the group. If they are together as a group, there is a bigger possibility of enjoying a successful season,” he explained.
The players speak
Noah Sadaoui, who finished last season in the ISL with a whopping 20 goal contributions – 11 goals and 9 assists – expressed great excitement in linking up with his teammates once again.
When asked about his thoughts on the new signings, he said, “Guys like Udanta, Sandesh, Raynier – I’ve faced them all. I’ve always thought they were good players. I’m very happy that they are in our team now.”
Formerly of Bengaluru FC, Udanta Singh joined the Gaurs this summer ending a nine-year association with his previous club. “It’s fine really. In fact, change is the only constant, and it’s always exciting to have a fresh challenge in front of you. Of course, it feels a bit emotional to return (to Bengaluru for the Media Day and meeting former teammates), but I’m in a different jersey and I’m committed to my new team now.
“There is no pressure really. It’s entirely up to me to show consistency and do well when given the opportunity. We have a good squad, and we hope to have a good season,” the winger commented.
Muhammed Nemil, who played a crucial role in FC Goa’s Durand Cup triumph in 2021, shared his thoughts on his development as a footballer. A product of the esteemed Reliance Foundation Academy, the 21-year-old lauded their efforts, saying, ”They have helped me in all ways possible – not just me, but every other youngster who is a part of the academy.
“Their involvement goes beyond football as they help us focus on our academics, personal and professional living and much more. I believe that they are one of the best academies in India.”
The youngster also credited the ISL for opening up new avenues in football development in the country. “I’ve heard that the infrastructure and opportunities for footballers were lesser before. It has changed now, and surely the league has been playing its part,” he concluded.