FC Goa chief coach Arthur Antunes Coimbra, better known as Zico, has managed to taste relative success in his first two years at the helm of affairs but he will now be chasing the ISL crown.
Zico managed to steer FC Goa to the semifinals in the first edition, only to lose to eventual champions Atletico de Kolkata.
The Goan franchise made it to the final at home but were unlucky to have been knocked out in the dying minutes of the match by Stiven Mendoza and Chennaiyin FC.
The loss in the final in front of a packed home crowd would have hurt Zico and now he is back to erase all those memories with a title triumph.
Unlike many teams in the ISL, Zico has chosen to keep faith in his foreign players having retained six of them, including former Brazil captain Lucio as marquee. Joffre Gonzalez, Reinaldo Oliveira, Rafael Coelho, Luciano Sobrosa and Gregory Arnolin have all returned to FC Goa but it&’s the strength of their domestic contingent that could hit them hard this season.
FC Goa were pegged back by the suspension of their former co-owners and started signing domestic players only much later than other teams. Unfortunately for them, some of their key players from last season like Narayan Das, Pronay Halder, T Haokip and Bikramjit Singh moved to greener pastures, leaving FC Goa to hunt relatively new players.
Robin Singh remains the only major signing but fans should not lose much hope as star midfielders, Romeo Fernandes and Mandar Rao Desai, are still around.
“I think if you have conditions to perform a job in the long term, joint with the vision of our owners who want to build a training facility and bring good sponsors on board to make the club financially stronger, it gives you more level-headedness while sequencing your work," he said.
"With a strong vision, continuity is important. But we know that we need results; in football results are important, and I think in the last two years we have had good results. We will try our best again in the new season,” said Zico, while explaining the reasons for his return to Goa for the third consecutive season.
Zico&’s determination to win big with FC Goa this season is best explained in his decision to take his team to Brazil for pre-season training. FC Goa spent three weeks in Rio de Janeiro training at Zico&’s football school, and even though they won just one of their four friendlies, Zico will have plenty to cheer.
The defence, led by captain Lucio and Gregory Arnolin, were stuttering in the first match but did well to hold up in two of the four matches with a clean slate. Even striker Rafael Coelho has now struck form and the Brazilian newcomers in the team, Trindade Goncalves, Rafael Dumas and Richarlyson, have already given a good account of themselves.
The only worry for FC Goa could be in goal where Zico has opted to have all three Indian goalkeepers. Laxmikant Kattimani was the star man last season but it remains to be seen if he can continue in the same manner this season as well. Subhashish Roy Chowdhury and Sukhdev Patil are the two other goalkeepers in the team.
If the two editions of the Indian Super League has taught us anything, it is that experience and teamwork can be more important to a team&’s success than big names. Zico has done well to cover up on that front.
FC Goa play their first match on October 4 at Guwahati against NorthEast United.