With the AFC Champions League set to be played in India for the first time ever, FC Goa head coach Juan Ferrando hailed the organisational efforts being made to host Group E of the competition, stating that it is a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for many.
Having won the ISL League Winners’ Shield in the 2019-20 season, FC Goa qualified for the 2021 AFC Champions League Group Stage – the first time that a team from India will be playing at this stage of the competition.
“(We are) very excited! This is one of the biggest competitions in the world alongside the likes of the UEFA Champions League and Copa Libertadores,” Ferrando said to the-aiff.com. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. These are the kind of things you start playing football for. We are all very enthusiastic about is to come and hope to make the country proud.”
The 40-year-old believes that it is a big opportunity for the whole nation, to see one of its own clubs move forward together, and cross swords against the top teams in the continent.
“It’s a huge one. Not only for FC Goa but also for the entire nation. This is an opportunity for our players to play against some of the biggest names in Asia,” continued Ferrando. “It not only be beneficial for the club but also be beneficial for the entire Indian footballing community.”
FC Goa secured another top-four finish in the ISL this season but lost out to Mumbai City FC in the semifinal. Looking forward to the challenge ahead, the Gaurs are set to face some of the best teams in Asia, in the form of Persepolis FC (Iran), Al Rayyan (Qatar) and Al Wahda (UAE).
“I always try to help the players improve with each passing day. And despite a great campaign in the ISL, I am aware that the team has still lots of room to improve,” Ferrando quipped. “Our goals are still far. My mindset is not to think about what we have done so far but always to think of what is left to do to get closer to our goals.”
The Spaniard feels that the fact that India has already conducted successful tournaments during the pandemic, shows how capable the organisers in the country are, something that international footballing bodies like FIFA and AFC seem to have noticed.
“I am very excited that Goa and India get to host such a big tournament but sad at the same time as fans won’t be in the stadium to get a real feel of it all. However, giving the rights to India just shows the trust bodies like the AFC and FIFA have in the country,” said Ferrando.
“While it was difficult in many respects, we were able to get a whole season of football under our bags and without a single mishap. That speaks volumes of the capability here.”